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Pine Siskins

by Charles Weld


Shivaree rings out and up from the back-yard trees

as a group of winter finches delivers up shurees

in chorus. Fricative, an adjective Aretas Saunders seized

upon, describes the sound of their collective wheeze,

the hoarseness of its whisper, as if it had been squeezed

out through a mouth or nose. It’s not by being unimpeded

that music’s made. Obstruction is needed—

stricture, friction—not spacious chambers that help ease

passage. Pine Siskins are made for winter’s adversity.

They pack extra fat, and are able to vary

metabolic speed to meet the rigors of many degrees

below zero. Much of the world’s beauty, for me,

is in how things bend to necessity, greet reality

rather than bear it, when hardship’s what reality guarantees.