Birdcalls, Spring 1950
In mid-May we move upstairs.
The living quarters expand.
My mother opens the windows
letting the spring breeze blow
musty air away. The crosswind lifts
the curtains in sheer joy before
Mama can insert the screens.
the air smells of snow soaked earth,
and is sparkled with birdsongs.
Mama listens. She knows them all,
Killdeer, Robin, Lark, and Finch.
She layers my bed with hefty quilts.
I do not complain, remembering
their cozy warmth when nights still smell
of lingering snow, blown across the fields
from the deep forbidding woods,
where coyotes and even bear may lurk,
and where I fear to go. Across the bed,
I lay looking through that window,
dreaming of summer days ahead.
Outside, my father directs the farmer
hired to plow our garden, though
much leveling must still be done
before the first planting, two weeks
hence, timed with cycles of the moon.
My room seems to open out.
The prairie grass below spreads
its golden reach to the leafless gray
of the still wintry woods,
while in our yard, the timid lilac
dreams of blooms yet to come.
My window, still open, lets in the sounds
of hatchling insects, and one bird’s serenade.
It is a voice I have never heard,
soft, mellow and melancholy.
Entranced, I whistle the tones
to remember, so I may learn its name.
Sunday is devoted to an excursion
in the woods to see the creek, a
place I have never seen. The brook
curls around a valley and a yellow house.
Whip-poor-will Haven is written
over the door, occupants unknown.
Holding my little sister’s hand,
Mama whistles the song of a bird,
She says it is the Whip-poor-will’s call.
It is my bird, the one that called to me
the night before. I feel a chill, knowing
I will remember this day forever.