Skip to main content

Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
Home
Contents
Biographies
Submissions
Archives
Editors
Contact Us
Publications
Policies

That Day, They Sang to Me

                                                                                   

                                               

                                      -1-

 

On a chilly afternoon near the end of May,

in a Greenwich Village park called Abingdon Square,

I was regaled with two seduction songs,

each designed to produce confusion.

 

First, I read, in Book Two of Virgil’s Aeneid,

the elaborately circumstantial account

of that notorious practical joke,

the so-called Trojan horse (Greek, in fact).

 

To pluck one strand from this well-wrought lie, Sinon says,

“So Calchas read the omens. At his command

they raised this horse, this effigy, all to atone

for the violated image of Pallas, her wounded pride.”

 

This clever sacrilege also cast Ulysses,

the thorn and bane of Troy, as Sinon’s nemesis.

Eschewing further detail, I’ll just say

the artful tale could have hoodwinked me.

 

Keep in mind that Ulysses, himself, not Sinon,

was the original author, and that Aeneas’

re-telling was a second Trojan horse,

which served to breach poor Dido’s smitten heart.

Call it “Fate,” but we become what we hate.

 

                                           -2-

 

Emerging, at last, from the gorgeous maze of lies,

I put the poem aside. Almost immediately,

Virgil gave way to a brazen robin,

who stutter-stepped across the crumbly soil

of a garden bright with seasonal flowers,

alighting but a few feet from my bench.

 

On guard, the feathered biped shifted nervously,

backing, then turning, till his front was facing me.

Common, but brave, Robin was on display,

a shabby, ruffled, youthful swain,

with a fat, muted, brownish-orange breast

and bright yellow beak, his claim to fame.

 

Dramatically striking a three-quarter profile,

and puffing himself up big, he began to sing

--to produce, that is, a small array of tweets,

not the full robin-song we know and love--

which caused his throat to flutter and to throb.

Could he have been singing, perhaps, to me?

 

And then, he cast a sudden glance up, up, and up,

using his bright beak as a pointer, so to speak.

I carefully followed his beady eye

to the topmost branch of a new-leafed tree

beyond the garden, at the verge of the park.

 

With bright-eyed owl-sight, there I saw his would-be mate,

or so my un-magnetic eye took her to be.

Though Master Singer was but half--fledged,

“he’s trying to seduce her!” I inferred.

His chosen Mrs. listened, for a while,

to the strident tweets flying through the air.

 

Then, launching herself, she sped past, above our heads,

low enough to buzz her would-be suitor and me.

A moment later, up he flew, flap and flash,

making a bee-line, not in pursuit,

but toward the branch she had just vacated.

Soaring, then, beyond her tree, he rode the wind

to the vanishing point in the blue-gray sky.

 

                                         -3-

 

How can I possibly presume to understand

the complex mating patterns of half-fledged robins?

(For all I know, “he” could have been a “she.”)

Nor can I interpret Virgil’s omens,

like the eagle, in Book Twelve of the poem.

 

Still, with a weakness for far-fetched similitudes,

on that chilly afternoon in late May, I thought

I’d witnessed bird courtship by indirection,

not unlike what Sinon and Aeneas wrought.

The moral, vexed: experience, dearly bought.

 

                                                     -Ron Singer