Sunday Poem

Like every kingdom,
the kingdom of birds
has its multitude of the poor,
the urban, public poor
whose droppings whiten
shingles and sidewalks,

who pick and pick
(but rarely choose)
whatever meets their beaks:
the daily litter
in priceless Italian cities,
and here, around City Hall—
always underfoot,
offending fastidious people
with places to go.

No one remembers how it happened,
their decline, the near-
abandonment of flight,
the querulous murmurs,
the garbage-filled crops.
Once they were elegant, carefree;
they called to each other in rich, deep voices,
and we called them doves
and welcomed them to our gardens.

by Lisel Mueller
from Alive Together
Louisiana State University Press