WHY SHOULD THERE BE STARS?
Wallace Roney (May 25, 1960—March 31, 2020)
No one to talk to but a little bird, first
dusky flycatcher of the year, on the final day
of an eternal March. There’s snow falling,
and the bird’s unhappy about that.
Perched on the lee side of the tree,
it’s hunched and plumped,
and I’ve opened the window an inch,
so that it might listen, with me, to a slow, sad song.
The bird cocks its head when the trumpet comes in,
turns its body slightly, and its eyes look bright.
But its eyes always look bright and its song
isn’t much. The field guide says its five notes
consist of clip, whit, whee, wheep, and zee.
Though it never flies at night,
it surely knows why there should be stars.
Still, when the song ends, it bounces a bit
on the limb it’s perched on and seems
to want but doesn’t ask for more.
Today the great trumpeter died, at fifty-nine,
of the plague that sweeps the face of the earth.
The little bird and I listen on.
Every time the song ends, I ask “Again?”
and the bird just says zee, or whit, or wheep.
—from Poets Respond
April 4, 2020
Robert Wrigley: “Jazz trumpeter Wallace Roney died this week of the virus. My heart is broken.” (web)