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Innocent Captives

Captured blackbirds call their unsuspecting relatives
to a feast placed away from fields of ripening sunflowers.
On top of cages, brown rice glitters in toxic trays,
a tempting easy meal.


Ancient memory guides them each spring and fall
along river valleys and wetlands where rich
cattail marshes were drained and fertilized for increased yield
and prized cash crops and condos grew.

In August, heavy black heads of sunflowers give up
their oil-laden seeds.
Beaks, sharp and black, split shells, black hulls fall
to the black ground.

Pale kernels swallowed in faith to nourish the migration

not all will survive to make the journey.

Husks drop and rice scatters, as darkness falls

blackbirds roost
in a flash of black and red
and they fall
among the blooms.

Gwen Nell Westerman

Follow the Blackbirds
Michigan State University Press

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