On the morning when the sun
descends snow-crested peaks,
rinses the valley with light,
the cherry trees burst their buds,
the willow puffs up and gleams,
and the western tanager flies in.
He flits in the willow after insects,
plays Feste in the giant aspen,
his suit blotched with black, yellow, red,
gaudy jester of the rain forest.
Exotic, risque, insolent,
he hiccups his pit-a-tik call.
Have you never wanted to make yourself
over like the tanager,
strut down Main Street wild quilled,
sing with a rock band,
preen and let loose your funky riff
to the rafters?
The tanager is our harbinger.
Early run-off bulges in the creeks,
caddis hatches break from their moorings,
and in the high tundra infinitesimal
alpine flowers fly their flags
for moths who later feed the griz.
A wash of fish, fire, creatures,
flows up and down valleys and peaks.
In us the answering shudder
invites us to be foolish again.
We plant a tree where not one has taken –
In fall it will turn the red of the tanager –
and we spin and gambol about it.
That same crimson courses in our veins
as, rashly, we embrace the light.
– Carolyn Pinet