Along Mink Brook, Early Spring by Don Colburn

The locals have laid down their bets
on when the thick lake ice will break up
and here the creaking and cracking
make way for slow dark water.
A raft of ice drifts upstream, smooth white sail,
wind winning for a while against water
on its long downfall to the sea.
The day after the funeral, we walk out
into the bright cold of this ongoing world
unmoved by our need to name it.
I’m an amateur thumbing through my Audubon,
trying to keep up, sidetracked by names.
I rejoice in them all, the phoebe
Joanne just spotted, her first of the season,
the kingfisher going berserk across the water,
juncos, flickers, chickadees, crows,
common mergansers—rare somewhere
and out by the ice floe, the ring-necked gull
which has no ring around its neck.
Then the song sparrow, the one
I couldn’t see in the brushy white pine,
flies out, lights on a willow shoot
and sways in silhouette against watery light,
a dusky little nameless bird until it sings.
Don Colburn is a former newspaper reporter (Washington Post, Oregonian) and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. He has published one book and three chapbooks of poetry. Among his honors are the Discovery/The Nation Prize and two residencies at The MacDowell Colony and three Pushcart nominations.