No woodpeckers pulping suet
this winter, no juncos or finches
throbbing at the sunflower feeder.
Bad to find the woods depleted,
the river sullen under ice.
February is a tombstone engraved
with cruel numerical sentiments.
You break the ice on the birdbath
but no flutter or chirp responds.
I scan the meadow with powerful
binoculars, sorting and filing
every frost-brown stalk and twig.
The tragic silence embalms us
in colors that barely register.
We should have lived urban lives
without expecting birdsong
to shore up our timid phonics.
We should wake to the song of trash
trucks prowling the boulevards,
and spend our winter afternoons
perking in the art museums,
where painted scenes overlap
those we’ve kept since childhood.
Now our back yard merges
with forest spangled by dawn.
We could follow our tracks and find
the local bear asleep in the rocks
with rump exposed to the sunlight
and occasional but angry storms.
We hibernate inside ourselves
and ignore the absence of birds
except on days like this when
we stroll in unseasonable warmth
and try not to count ourselves
among the urgently missing.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.