As I prepare to do battle with birds this spring - Canyon Towhees, House Finches, Curved Billed Thrashers, Shrub Jays - making meals of tender seedlings and ripening fruits, I remember what Alan Chadwick once insisted, "You miss the whole point of the garden if you fail to notice the birds."
Pablo Neruda becomes bird, sings as a bird, views the world from above and gives us this poem.
It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through which the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air –
and there, night came in.
When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography –
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.
by Pablo Neruda, from Fully Empowered, 1962
translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reid