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Hi. Today we noticed that Rusty Swing Bird is back. We call it that because it sounds like a rusty swing. After much internetting, I learned that this sound is from the same black-capped chickadee that I’ve loved my whole life (thank you grandma Stan) who usually says Chick A Dee Dee Dee.  Is it returning from somewhere warmer, or has it just decided to change it’s tune? The current song is DEEEEE OOOHHHH, in a high pitch, just like a rusty swing.  When we first heard it two years ago, we thought something was swinging loose on our house.  

It is wild March out there, especially in Missoula, my heart town. Here we are going back into the deep freeze. I think it is 5 degrees out now, and a wicked arctic wind is coming.

The black-capped chickadee can lower its body temp by 10-15 degrees at night, it doesn’t freeze, so it doesn’t make sense that it would leave town for the winter.  But why would it suddenly decide to warble differently? It was the exact same time last year that I looked up the bird, and thought, based on written descriptions, I thought it was some kind of blackbird, or thrush, or my favorite named a Great Tit. But no, it is the same blessed chickadee that we always see, just singing differently. Why?

I’m gonna try to write a poem about this bird:

Rusty Swing Bird

When I was small my grandmother wrote a book about chickadees,

and when we all had babies she printed it for us to read to them. Chick a Dee Dee Dee.

But now the bird sings like a rusty swing,

and only around this time of freeze or thaw.

What runs through the land that makes it change tunes?

What does it draw from the earth up to the wings, to change the whistle?

The bird and the grandmother are elemental in their faith, of seasons, of land, of graces.

They each hear the best happinesses, raising blubbering faith to child’s ears.

Ivory mice can’t fathom that reach and resonance, each song a sway.

Poor mice.

Even in the deep freeze the feathers shelter.

Too often a pang for flight overwhelms,

but clutching the cold, they wait to span,

the ground and sky blank except for the darting black cap.

Strewn on twilight and flitting, it remains unseen, but heralds,

we hope,


An arctic front bring sudden glass, but,

like a painting in sound,

the swing shrills with bright life.

This is your house, it says. This is your air.

The whistles are turning pages, not inside, but out on the branches.

This sleeping ache will soon wake with spring.

It means to be a solitary musing,

each infant sigh, each cradled screech, each birdsong, each peaceful frost, each heartsickness, each held symphony, each toying mirror, each soothing nude, each breathing sister, each calm gladness, each thin wave, each grand slide, each, each, each, each,

each drawn note is a playground.


There. A poem about rusty swing bird. Happy Saturday, poemhearts. Can you hear it?