Catbird

Mary Oliver

He picks his pond, and the soft thicket of his world.
He bids his lady come, and she does,
flirting with her tail.
He begins early, and makes up his song as he goes.
He does not enter a house at night, or when it rains.
He is not afraid of the wind, though he is cautious.
He watches the snake, that stripe of black fire,
until it flows away.
He watches the hawk with her sharpest shins, aloft
in the high tree.
He keeps his prayer under his tongue.
In his whole life he has never missed the rising of the sun.
He dislikes snow.
But a few raisins give him the greatest delight.
He sits in the forelock of the lilac, or he struts
in its shadow.
He is neither the rare plover or the brilliant bunting,
but as common as the grass.
His black cap gives him a jaunty look, for which
we humans have learned to tilt our caps, in envy.
When he is not singing, he is listening.
Neither have I ever seen him with his eyes closed.
Though he may be looking at nothing more than a cloud
it brings to his mind several dozen new remarks.
From one branch to another, or across the path,
he dazzles with flight.
Since I see him every morning, I have rewarded myself
the pleasure of thinking that he knows me.
Yet never once has he answered my nod.
He seems, in fact, to find in me a kind of humor,
I am so vast, uncertain and strange.
I am the one who comes and goes,
and who knows why.
Will I ever understand him?
Certainly he will never understand me, or the world
I come from.
For he will never sing for the kingdom of dollars.
For he will never grow pockets in his gray wings.