By Scott Cairns
This morning the world’s white face reminds us
that life intends to become serious again.
And the same loud birds that all summer long
annoyed us with their high attitudes and chatter
silently line the gibbet of the fence a little stunned,
They look as if they’re waiting for things
to grow worse, but are watching the house,
as if somewhere in their dim memories
they recall something about this abandoned garden
that could save them.
The neighbor’s dog has also learned to wake
without exaggeration. And the neighbor himself
has made it to his car with less noise, starting
the small engine with a kind of reverence. At the window
his wife witnesses this bleak tableau, blinking
her eyes, silent.
I fill the feeders to the top and cart them
to the tree, hurrying back inside
to leave the morning to these ridiculous
birds, who, reminded, find the rough shelters,
bow, and then feed.
Scott Cairns, “Early Frost” from The Translation of Babel (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1990). Copyright © 1990 by Scott Cairns.