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As Strong and Fast and Sharp as You

That magpie out in the garden there,
he’s as strong and fast and sharp as you.
He’d kill you. You know that, right?

He’d peck out your eyes,
rip open your belly with his talons,
and dive bomb you to obliteration.
You know that, right?

He’s every bit as strong and fast and sharp as you,
my pretty little kitty.
You wouldn’t stand a chance.

But he’ll always keep his distance,
and he will never start anything with you.
So, pay attention to his warning clicks and whistles,
to the cracking whacking of his black beak,
and be a sensible little kitty, yeah.

Stay well away.

Because he’ll be sure to end you 
if you start on him, 
even if it ends him too.

Chatter from a distance if you must, 
little kitty.
Hiss and scream behind his back if you like.
Stretch and flex those fearsome claws.
Scratch and bite the fence.
Bare your teeth.
Raise your haunches. 
Stare him down.

But never make a move on him.

He’s as strong and fast and sharp as you.
You wouldn’t stand a chance, little kitty.
Just leave him be.
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Sorrow lands quietly 
on the edge of my path.

He is an old bird.
His smooth blacks, frayed 
and cracked by the pull of earth and time.
His pure whites, grey-yellowed 
by damp winds and harsh light.

He limps. 
His eyes shift everywhere 
but where he's going.
His splintered talons 
and chipped beak 
set about the hard ground 
over and over.

He is an old bird.
He is alone.

I stop and turn, 
and slowly stoop
to connect with eye contact.
Sorrow hops away.

Not like those tiny birds. 
Frantic, sudden clouds of fear.  
Winging it from anything that looms near.
To the rooftops and lamppost tops,
and the high wires spun between,
to Twitter and preen in disarray.

Sorrow just hops away.

No further than two arms’ length,
to where he knows he could escape.
Stands still, cocks his head, 
shakes out his wings and tail a bit, 
and looks right back at me - 
while, for a moment, I reflect 
on our similarities.

He is an old bird.
He is alone.
He is unafraid. 

Sorrow seems happy 
to watch me walk away.