In Arkansas, five thousand blackbirds fall
on New Year’s Eve, pepper kernels crunching up pavement.
The street-sweeper parks and stares. Does not know
who to call. The corpses are cleared but they keep missing spots,
like when mother paid me to pluck out her grays—celestial casualties
left for the neighbor boy to shovel away. I wonder if Darwin ever
considered the sheer luck of being human. Fingers curled around
his finches just tight enough to stun, a quarter of a million years of trial
and error fossilized under his breath. Pricking the tip of each beak like
the spindle of a spinning wheel. How cold the deathbed must have felt,
after a lifetime of studying survival. I have not woken to birdsong in a week.
As if the jays, the sparrows, the robins are mute in solidarity.
Dawn tromps quietly. Does not want to disturb again. Later, no one
will remember how the housecats dragged their limp toys inside, or how
our new-year optimism drained as brightly as it had bubbled—only how
the wind blew feathers for days. Darwin went all that way to prove
we could change. But of course. The birds fall again the next year.
We are the only species that remembers its ancestor’s mistakes.