"Little Killing Ditty"
Photograph by Thinkstock/Ingram Publishing.
I have forgotten the little killing ditty
whispered to the red birds and the blue birds and the brown birds
not one of which I ever thought to give a name.
In the tall mesquite mistaking our yard
for a spacious place, I plugged away with my pellet gun
and got them often even in the eye, for I was trained
to my craft by primordial boredom
and I suppose some generic, genetic rage
I seem to have learned to quell or kill.
They dropped like the stones I’d throw in Catclaw Creek
or fluttered spastically and panickedly up
whereupon I took more tenacious aim—
much more difficult now because they moved
—not me, frozen as if in a camera’s flash—
troubling the tyranny of the ordinary
as if a wave of meaning or unmeaning
went rippling like heat through the yard.
Fire and fire and they fell and they fall, hard.
I felt nothing, and I will not betray those days
if days are capable of being betrayed,
by pretending a pang in my larval heart
or even some starveling joy when Tuffy yelped.
I took aim at the things I could not name.
And the ditty helped.
Christian Wiman's most recent book is Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet.