Alerted by the scratching and scrabbling
of claws against metal, the scraping
and scuffling of feathered heft, of pecking,
I hear them first through the walls
when I am two floors below, but cannot name
or pinpoint the source; I only know
this growing uneasiness that something
is amiss, that my closed-door, paid-for silence
has been infiltrated by a foreign presence,
an intruder I sense means me no good.
Outside, looking up, I can just make out
dark shapes moving inside the latticed guards
that let in rain but should prevent breach
by starling or sparrow. What most unsettles me
is that I see but cannot see, that they are a specter
without a name. I know by their telltale shifting,
abrading, that they are real, that they are filling
with twigs and straw and bramble
what had been clear and free, what had been
egress for storms. How long have they worked here
at this penetration, this slow ruin, without
my detection? What other stealth goes on
without my knowledge? Carpenter bees.
Termites. Mold in some dripping corner,
spreading. Dividing cells. Arteries,
hardening. Bones thinning to snap-kindling.
The sudden swoop of the crow that carried off
my sister two winters ago, though I watched
all night. Though I scanned the skies.
Though I petitioned for reinforcements.
In bed before sleep, I can hear them
settling against each other, beaks tucked
in, wings folded, narrow lungs breathing
their portion of my air. I must live
in this house. I must live in two houses.
At least one of them is riddled by birds.