The National Catholic Review

They blind the lambs
these black and white birds,
traveling in pairs across the rain-dark lawn.
They’re dangerous and despicable,
argues my friend, recognizing
their cruelty year by year

as long as flocks have bred.
It is a cold day, a city
brittle with traffic.
Where is there a way
vehicle fumes and coal sweat
have not soiled?

Two of the birds are searching
the grass beyond the stretching
chestnut tree roots, twin
assassins in the late afternoon.
And I get ready to tell my companion that

these birds take no joy in destruction,
nor in the agony of the new-born.
They gather new-minted pennies and
dazzling buttons, isn’t that the legend?

Planning nests of treasures,
they wing across the iron land
each evening, disappointed
in the taste of blood.

Michael Cadnum’s 35th book, the novel Seize the Storm, will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. He lives in Albany, Calif.

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