Phoebe, we would expect you every year with your mate nesting on the porch up under the eaves in the safe dark though the floor right below you was slantly sunlit: every spring you knew the spot and came back or your son, or grandson, whichever,
and then one year not. And then not again.
We drew up blame sheets: it hadn’t been enough that we quit sitting on the porch, we ought to have stayed off it altogether until your little ones had flown to make sure you remembered it as a phoebe haven where you’d nested well, you or your father, whichever.
When you had wintered well this would be a good forest for a phoebe to come north to, our Hill here (or for a vireo, or a catbird— but you sang right past them, it’s just the phoebes you sang to and heard sing); the Hill had at least four phoebe nests every summer
and then fewer. And maybe next summer none.
We drew up blame sheets again: our children make too much uproar in the woods, we ought to lock our dog in at night, we ought never to have let our guest bring her cat for a week, the Hill is not phoebe-friendly like this—
but now a deeper blame sheet hushes us: the Hill is phoebe-friendly but it is not enough of a forest to be a phoebe haven (or vireo, or whippoorwill) and it never was: it was the edge of a forest worth flying north to, and you came and made homes in that forest right out to the edge our porch
until now that the heart of the forest has fallen to grinding aliens with mandibles of steel not edible by rodent or worm not even lysed by clostridium and methanobacterium, now our Hill is left, but it is not enough forest with the heart gone.
You come to the Hill for these few last summers though it is not enough, we glimpse you at forest’s edge in time too as in space.
I need there to be some phoebe country to which you come, and though my habitat is not yours or the muskrat’s I would wish when I have wintered well to come to your same forest at the edge, I or my son, or grandson, great-grandson, whichever.