The sun travels along the arch of a low horizon—the short path
of a winter day
when cold air aches
pressing into our bones
Later, ice-glazed tree limbs crackle
in the midnight winds
heard outside our shut-tight glass
Snow falls, covering
paths, dead leaves, and seeds
In the frigid morning, the birds seek
a meal to sustain them
They gather on our deck
where the filled feeder hangs like a beacon
juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice
jostle with their larger brethren
the hairy woodpeckers with their zebra-striped backs
and the hungry cardinals,
their flaming feathers, a florescent highlighter against the snow,
marking the places where the seed falls
They write their stories in footprints as we watch them:
the male cardinals wait while their partners eat their fill,
then battle with each other for the choicest remains
Chivalrous? or cavalier?
Crimson heroes to their girls
Red villains to each other
Can a man be both things?
Do the history books tell?
For the cardinals, the chronicle of this winter journey
will melt, the empty seed shells scattered
will dissolve
into fresh earth and green grass
But we will remember both hero and villain,
their footprints transcribed in letters
of our poems and prose


©2020 Tanya Cliff


39 thoughts on “Cardinals

  1. Birds and men, I think, can be both indeed. I think it depends on their inner narrative which story prevails. I suspect some of those cardinals go back to their branch and torture themselves with doubt about whether they did their best on that day. Wonderful poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Stephen! Hopefully not torture. Ponder, maybe? Probably depends on the behavior of the girls. 😂

      Birds and human, I am certain, can be both. And I know we humans can learn from nature. Thank you for the thoughtful comment! You did a little unpacking here, I think. 🙏😊🙏

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe Steinbeck with a Sci-fi twist…Different creatures in different universes, same general theme. You could have a comparative lit course with one novel. 😂

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! 🙏😊🙏

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re mind is twisted in just the right way!
        Seriously though, that little story sends me all the way around the emotional block. That’s right, I admit it, I experience complex emotions once in a while. It is a truly multi-universal story, no matter the beings involved.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.