The chickadee is all about truth. 
The finch is a token. The albatross 
is always an omen. The kestrel is mental, 
the lark is luck, the grouse is dance, 
the goose is quest.  The need for speed 
is given the peregrine, and the dove’s 
been blessed with the feminine.  

The quail is word, and culpability.  
The crane is the dean of poetry. 
The swift is the means to agility, 
the waxwing mere civility,
the sparrow a nod to working class

nobility.  The puffin’s the brother 
of laughter, and prayer, the starling the student 
of Baudelaire. The mockingbird 
is the sound of redress, the grackle the uncle 
of excess. The flicker is rhythm, 

the ostrich is earth, the bluebird a simple 
symbol of mirth. The oriole 
is the fresh start. The magpie prince 
of the dark arts. The swallow is home
and protection -- the vulture the priest 

of purification, the heron a font 
of self-reflection.  The swisher belongs 
to the faery realm. Resourcefulness 
is the cactus wren.  The pheasant is sex, 
the chicken is egg, the eagle is free, 

the canary the bringer of ecstasy.
The martin is peace.  The stork is release. 
The swan is the mother of cool discretion.  
The loon is the watery voice of the moon.  
The owl’s the keeper of secrets, grief, 
and fresh fallen snow, and the crow
has the bones of the ancestral soul.

(this poem first appeared in Hudson Review, and later in Best American Poetry)