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Fledgling (Female Cardinal)
Richard Swanson


Out of the nest, day three,
she sits on our deck, still figuring things out.
Seeds spilled from the feeder have her attention.
Her nearby parents, yesterday’s food providers,
stay put. Find your own, they urge, under your beak!
Things distract her:
sounds (caw, caw; chickadee-dee),
movements (acrobat squirrels in overhead pines),
and objects from other worlds (a riding mower).
All these impressions and images get logged
in her head’s recesses.
It’s more complex than we thought, a bird’s brain.
Back to the deck. Her hunger’s trumping
nervous hesitation, but which seed to choose?
She tilts her eye. Hmm, this one.
She eats one more, same kind. Good also.
More brain registry. Repetitive learning. Progress.
Here’s a sudden, whooshy intrusion,
the wind at her back, under her still-fuzzy tail,
an airy puff to remind her she got where she is
by moving those wing things, triangular lifters
attached to her slender, almost weightless body.
Oh, I do that, she remembers.
She jumps, stretches, catches the gust, and rises,
This feels right, natural—flying.
She could perfect it, use it to get to a tree limb.
Which she does, perching there,
quite satisfied with herself.
© by Richard Swanson.
Used with the author’s permission.




Richard Swanson (1940 - 2023) taught college English and Creative Writing for 33 years. A devoted supporter of libraries and poetry, he was the author of two novels and several poetry collections. A resident of Madison, Wisconsin, Richard enjoyed cooking, fishing, and woodworking. He was well-known for his sense of humor, which was often reflected in his writing.

     Men in the Nude in Socks     Paparazzi Moments     Not Quite Eden    


Post New Comment:
The poem is a great parallel to humans, thank you for it.
Posted 07/23/2015 08:04 AM
What a well written poem, Richard. Your observations are right on. We enjoy this bird so much also. I'm glad to see a tribute to cardinals.
Posted 07/22/2015 09:53 PM
Mary Lou Taylor:
Charming poem. ANd a treat to get inside a fledging's head. Thank you for this poem.
Posted 07/22/2015 01:12 PM
Beautifully done poem! I love the neat, in every way, cardinals as well. Too many messy sparrows, flinging seeds everywhere - mourning doves lunch.
Posted 07/22/2015 12:15 PM
how sweet and lovely!
Posted 07/22/2015 09:23 AM
lovely tribute to a lovely bird...thanks...
Posted 07/22/2015 08:32 AM
Beautiful! Wonderful imagery -- we love cardinals! This poem brings to mind one of my favorites, "Cardinal Rule" by Phylllis Beckman.)
Posted 07/22/2015 07:42 AM
Only a poet would notice this little bird's movements, and write so eloquently about it. Great poem!!
Posted 07/22/2015 07:37 AM
Nice, Richard. Birds are the best. We're currently having a sparrow explosion. I love "she could perfect it.."
Posted 07/22/2015 07:26 AM
Poetic, unpretentious, detailed and kindly account. Nice. Also like your bio. Interesting facts without bragging. Lovely, honest style.
Posted 07/22/2015 07:08 AM
Gary Busha:
I had Robin chicks first flight off my deck. Good observation and well written.
Posted 07/22/2015 06:06 AM

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