“The Birds Live with Us” by Jane Beal


The black phoebe in the fig tree
flies to the roof edge
as if looking for something or
finding it –
will she try to build her nest close by?

She flies off, and as I
walk under the giant green leaves
of the fig tree, I see a mockingbird
has flown into the space
where she was moments before.

Did he frighten her away?


The blue jays are sailing
on invisible rivers of air between
old oak trees and white-barked birches.


As I turn the corner to walk the path
between the pool and the apartment building,
I look up and notice three iridescent gray pigeons:
one on the roof, one under the roof,
and one on the drain pipe extension.

I think: A picture of the Trinity!
Then a fourth gray angel
flies into their midst:
a herald of some mystery
I don’t yet know.

Why do the birds live with us?


I can hear the hummingbirds, happily
coding and decoding among themselves,
as I pass the red sugar-water feeder
that hangs over my neighbor’s patio
next to a sunlit tree.


In the evening, I walk my dog
in the park, past the blackberry bushes
by the dry creek-bed. We turn
down a dirt path with yellow grass
on either side of it.

I look up and see the silhouettes
of two birds in the sunset-sky –
one like a small hawk, the other
like a crow. They are hovering
because they are hunting

something that might hear them.


Earlier on the path, I had heard the rustle
of a giant turkey vulture above
me, and turned, to look back,
but hadn’t seen him.
My dog was undisturbed.


Lately, I have been remembering
the dream I had of a red cardinal
who flew out of a pine tree
and struck my left hand
between my forefinger and thumb:

the acupressure point
called the valley of peace.
Then, in my dream, the bird transformed
into an extraordinary parrot
from Central America.

Years later, I think I may
understand my dream at last.


Davis, CA



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