Mocking West Side Story
The robins have been fighting for weeks.
Today the mockingbirds begin
screaming in harsh gutturals as they battle
from branch to branch to
rock to grass to lawn chair. Their cries
are so avian, so ordinary—they
disappoint me so. I expected finger
snapping, clarinet riffed Jets are gonna rumble,
or a shrilly whistled Keep coolly cool boy
while somewhere, three yards over,
a female is throttling her wish
that there be no morning star.
And why not? These are urban mockingbirds.
On a wire above my train station, I hear
one cycling daily through his repertoire—sparrow,
wren, crow, cardinal, chickadee, cat, squirrel,
tmobile jingle, tripartite car alarm from hell—
aweir aweir aweir aweir aweir aweir
weirrrr-YUP, weirrrr-YUP, ANKH ANKH ANKH—
a performance always closed with the sound of commuters
saying goodbye to their cars: beep BEEP beep.
One heartbreak morning he reminded me this is only
another tequila sunrise, then, after the new tattoo,
mocked me with the chorus of Margaritaville.
So I expect a Broadway soundtrack. It is his job
to be familiar to me, so I won’t consume him
the way humans have always consumed all that is
unknown, silencing difference before it might sing to us.