The sound ice cubes make falling
to the floor of the catch tray
frightens the birds. They nudge the doors
of their wire cages open and fly
straight to the hills, though it is well known
there are nights when hunters lie in wait
with bonfires and their hundred feet of netting.
But the city makes them jittery: steam rises
in sad columns from factory sweatshops,
lost shoes dangle by their laces from electric
wires; window after window adorned
with mannequins’ molded faces, days
stampeding into each other. Some birds
wear cowls around their faces. Some
have tufted beards. In the lowland markets,
it is possible to find the smallest of them
trapped in woven rush baskets,
their plumage unnatural in forced neon.
Those are some of the saddest ones. They die
after a few days, all memory of song erased.