Frequently Asked Questions (10), by Camille T. Dungy

Frequently Asked Questions: 10

I am surprised they haven’t left already —

things have gotten downright frosty, nearly unbearable.

A mob of them is apparently mouthing off outside

when I put down my newspaper and we all gather

to stand beside my daughter in the bay

of kitchen windows. Quiscalus quiscula:

this name sounds like a spell which, after its casting,

will make things crumble into a complement

of unanswerable questions. Though, if you need me

to tell you God’s honest truth, I know nothing

but their common name the morning we watch them attack

our feeder. I complain about the mess they leave. Hulls

I’ll have to sweep up or ignore. My father —

who I am thankful is still alive — says We could use

a different kind of seed. A simple solution. We want that

brown bird with the shock of red: the northern flicker.

We want western bluebirds, more of the skittish

finches. But mostly we get grackle grackle grackle

all day long. Can it be justifiable to revile these

harbingers? They scoff all we offer

and — being too close and too many — scare

other birds away. My husband says, Look

at all those crackles. I almost laugh at him,

but the winter air does look hurtful loud

around the black flock. Like static is loud when it sticks

sheets to sheets so they crackle when pulled

one from another. And sting. My father — who is older now

than his older brothers will ever be — promises

he will solve the problem of the grackles

and leaves the window to search for his keys.

The dawn sky — blue breaking into blackness —

is what I see feathering their bodies. The fence

is gray. The feeder is gray, the aspen bark. Gray

hulls litter the ground. But the grackles,

their passerine claws — three facing forward, one turned

back — around the roost bar of the feeder, are

so bright within their blackness, I pray they will stay.

– CAMILLE T. DUNGY

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