Believe this: that they set
their course by the Big Dipper’s rim,
skirting its tin lip, the salt broth
it ladles out. That they sight
along the ramrod back of Cepheus’ throne,
down the rhinestone folds
of Cassiopeia’s gown.
that they might navigate the headwaters
of Draco’s crocodile tears,
these good night sailors, reckoning
by their star compass.
Indigo Buntings—each its own
feather-covered patch of daylight
under the planetarium’s false
night, pass the test of the constellations.
How they find in those colander stars
their seasonal routes
north and south.
And believe this, too:
That the geese who haunt
the North Sea’s estuaries
each winter, hatch there,
overnight, full-grown, from the fat,
blue-lipped barnacles that hug
the shore’s wood-drift.
Then you can see, exactly, how
a pair of Purple Finches have come
this morning to claim their home in my backyard.
Offspring of a winter’s wrong-headed longing.
The female, shadow-streaked,
a secret. The male,
all blood knot, all idiot song.