What I Want to Believe About the Vireos

— Catherine Pierce

“I have no idea why vireos are doing well,” Dr. Rosenberg said. “I’d love to do a study of vireos and discover what their secret is.”
The New York Times, ‘Birds Are Vanishing From North America

The vireos are plotting.
They are everywhere and various

and all with names
like Shakespearean villains

disguised as Shakespearean clowns.

Plumbeous. Slaty-capped
shrike. Their songs drop

from the canopy like candied
needles, and everyone smiles. Sweet

birds. They’ve been above us
for centuries, watching. See

their eyes: small, bright
pebbles that betray

nothing. They know
patience. See them tableau’d

on the oak branch
for minutes before diving

for the fat black beetle.
They know how green works,

how it muscles back, always,
once the pillars and poisons

are gone. They’re playing
the long game. Weary,

weary, weary
, trills the scrub
greenlet. It’ll all be theirs

again—rain forests, mangroves,
the great deciduous rustle.

The breeze and moss.
The loam and sunrise.

The vireos will be here
at the end and at the next

beginning. The red-eyed
vireo’s call will sound then

like it does now, like
it’s constantly asking

and answering
its own questions.

What did they do?
They did.

What did they know?
They knew.

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