Wildness

by Rachel Creager Ireland

What if it were a dream, what would it mean,
if a cat killed a bird barely ready to fly?
You wanted to protect the birds,
but you couldn’t. The cats’ wild nature,
what you admired about them,
drove them to hunt. When you took them in,
you thought you could balance their needs
with the needs of the local environment,
aliens though they were. You thought
you were more powerful than they.

At this point, in the dream, the cats
would have grown much larger than you’d expected.
They’d be like tigers, paws as big as your face,
claws that could take you down in one playful swat.
You’d be fearful for the safety of the children,
who, because it’s a dream, would be very small,
infants, even, not the actual gangly teens
you know today, who look down to meet your eyes.

You would hope that evolution
might have given the birds something.
They are wild, too. You might try
communication, learning their various
calls, watching and learning their habits.
Don’t build your nest in that tree, there are cats,
I can’t protect you, because cats. Cats.
And miraculously they understand, and
move the nest closer to the house.

What does it mean, when every day
you struggle to keep the wildness in, but it escapes,
and every day another dead bird by the door,
with the mottled feathers of one big enough
to fly, but not yet very good at it,
not having grown into their distinction,
the patterns and colors that show who they are?

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