Blood-orange house finch, all the bright autumn morning
hasn’t darted and flown from under the feeders
like the junkos, the ladder backs and white crowns.
He rests, nibbles a bit of the fallen sunflower, the thistle seed.
Hunches in swift instinct when the jay’s shadow passes overhead
when a canyon towhee bullies, running at him, pecking at power.
Resting, maybe for transmigration, its last earthly hours.
Rocks on its cradling wings, barely at balance
no longer attempting flight.
A defeated soldier, any war, returns not as himself
lurches from sleep, nightmares swooping in and out
like vultures, sniffing and tugging at the ravaged
shattered soul that sags under the death of others — comrades
those he’s been taught to kill in order to protect.
All instinct for life or thought sucked away by this top-brass irony
human compassion blown away with these cynical lessons.
He clenches to stay afloat like a half-starved polar bear
on his calved and melting ice-flow.