Monday Poem

“Parrots, songbirds and hummingbirds all learn new vocalizations. The calls and songs of some species in these groups appear to have even more in common with human language, such as conveying information intentionally and using simple forms of some of the elements of human language such as phonology, semantics and syntax. And the similarities run deeper, including analogous brain structures that are not shared by species without vocal learning.” —Smithsonian Magazine, Do Birds Have Language

What Needs to be Sung

and I thought I was descended from apes,
but it may be birds who speak from trees
rather than primates who swing through them
with whom I am more comfortably close
because they sing! and singing’s a beautiful thing
if done with the art of Cardinals, but
still, I can’t fully renounce the grunts of apes
who share my lack of precision when it comes
to telling things as they are, who pound chests
and rattle undergrowth in the midst of jungles
when other brutes enter their perceived turf,
they too share my penchant to articulate,
though in more bellicose poetry
while from the canopy above
singing their way through the world
under the threat of hawks and cats
or a fox who would steal their young
they employ the syntax of a piccolo
the semantics of a violin
the phonology of a trill
to say what needs to be said
what needs to be sung

Jim Culleny, 3/2/22