To prod the metaphysical struggle
between nature and nurture,
we quarantine some birds at birth,
finches mostly, to see
what songs they come to know,
whether they will sing at all.
Their brethren in the wild meanwhile
are learning many, tribal hymns
of waking and working, loving and mourning.
When the orphans are brought back to the fold
they do have songs, only a few
of kettle and clock
cloistered heart and challenged soul.
They are welcomed nonetheless
and taught the standards by and by
as their own songs vanish
in the rose mallow and cottonwood trees.
But at the moment of return
when the whole flock is gathered
frightened and still:
what strangeness, what stories.