In Fairmount Park the Canada geese
are wild in the way that
rats are wild, in that no one
invited them and like the city’s
homeless, they fend for themselves.
Our Canadian-American geese
migrate from the west side
of the river to the east. Unless
they don’t feel like that much commotion
breaking open azalea-crazed spring days.
These geese roam only the Schuykill River.
These geese will take your offered treats
but will bite the hand that feeds them.
These geese will get all up in your business.
These geese leave landmines
of bacterially-loaded fecal matter clusters
in clumps of hundreds everywhere they go.
These geese do what they want, don’t care
what you think, and will give
as good as they get any day of the week.
These are Philadelphia geese.
Watching a flock of Philadelphia geese
you can’t help but notice white geese
scattered here and there—farm animals
gone feral, washed down the river, needing
a home, taken in by the flocks
of brotherly love. Every spring
some of the goslings are white-headed
but speckled or dark-faced but white-backed—
the first generations
of a native Philadelphia goose.
These Philadelphia geese—most days
we barely notice them, or we complain
about their shit
or their attitudes.
But each May we watch, needing to see
the yellow-green gosling announcement
that spring has fully ripened, needing
the traffic-stopped for goose-crossing excuse
for staring at the river rather than hurrying
to work, needing the honking sunset flight
as witness to a day’s passing, needing the shock
to our heart beats as our geese
fly so close overhead we feel the beat
of their wings through our shared air and breathe
to their native goose rhythm: