Daybreak caught in their wings, those dark
stars nod their heads along dry patches
of weeds that grow long in summer’s heat. Sleek
heads forage, catapult wild screeches across
my yard like pain in a hospital ward.
Such masters of concealment, they will fluff
up their feathers to cover their disease.
Only they know, the ache they carry,
I watch them. Try to pick out the bird
with the malignant cell. Brother, last week,
we laughed at the olive mini cart parked
next to me. Its pint-sized musculature,
its open doors. Your next car, I joked. You could
never hold onto any car, left them vacant on city
streets, or wounded inside your garage, never to be
healed. Wasn’t it then, you told me about your sixty
laps across the local pool. How strong you were.
Saturday, police broke down your door, when
you didn’t answer your phone or the high-pitched
screams outside your window. You puffed up
your down feathers, said you were fine even as
you passed out from the strength of the seizures.
A plague of grackles swoops onto a plot
of daylilies. Bobbing its purple head,
one grackle dips its head into the earth,
eyes watery, feathers dull, feigns fitness,
beak empty, nourishing itself on singed air.