I say you, and you are Wren on the fence. Tail straight up, so little. Proud, spunky, joyful. Your song shakes your body, needle beaked mouth wide open to the sky and singing singing singing your song. That swoopy flight with a whirring blur of little brown wings, after slow moths, sleepy flies, unlucky beetles. You seem to live solely to sing, to light up the yard with a burbling trill that fills up and explodes the hot suffocating space and makes me forget the sweat on my back. I look for you every day hoping to hear you again.
You have a smooth round grassy nest in the flowering quince, miniature, perfect, with little brown eggs no bigger than a dime, snuggled in with your mate. Playing house with a doll’s nest. Heartbreakingly vulnerable and there for the stealing. The raggedy calico cat with the torn ear comes into the yard, hoping, and your song warns and agitates. So tiny. So fierce.
I say me, and I am Catbird. Just plain gray, with bright jet eyes like seed beads. She calls and sings with all kinds of song. An expert mimic, trying them out. Trying on shrieking blue jay, but it’s not her. Cheerful robin seems false, working too hard to convince me she’s happy. She flies out of the yard and the songs fade; she returns later singing something new. Bluebird, sparrow, finch, cardinal, chickadee, swallow. None are her. Or me. I wish for a voice like Wren. Sure and joyful and sitting on the fence and singing just for her and for the world. Her song is enough. Enough. A fulfilling word.
I watch the cat invade the yard. She’s walking head down, ears sideways, trying to be casual. You, Wren, attack. Seeming without fear, or maybe overflowing with it. You dare the teeth and the claws to try it, just try it. Swooping and buzzing, and all angry brown fluff that looks like courage. The cat is bothered, but faking nonchalance. Stalking through the grass with yellow eyes half shut. Catbird joins the fight to chase the calico away. Infected by the fear and the urgency, she makes it her own fight, and in doing, finally finds her voice. The cat’s mew thrown back at her, scolding, and thus rebuked, she ambles off, flinching at each new assault. Wren flies to her nest. Catbird flies to the telephone wire and mews the yard safe. She mews the sun down, and mews her children home. I say me, and I am Catbird.