Swallows In My Garage–A Poem (2007)

For the third or fourth

dusk in a row,

the thirty to forty

that live in my garage

mass on the power line,

joining others from the refuge,

one hundred to two hundred strong,

doing what swallows do

before they fly south

to escape the Oregon Coast

winter rain

that drove Meriwether Lewis insane.

Reclined on the lawn,

I watch them,

not knowing

if the third or fourth dusk

will end the season

of my swallows,

until they return

next spring,

from Mexico.

They mass, they prepare.

I do not want them to leave

and not because when they leave

I know summer has flown.

In April there was one,

then two,

then three scouts appeared.

A week later,

the couples arrived,


to the very nests

they made years ago,

made from mud, twigs

and dryer lint.

Some did not return.

I know who they were,

and how each flew

unique in flight,


near my head,

a certain Kamikaze

kind of flight,

a beautiful

menacing flight

that awoke everything in me.

They never hit me,

or crashed,

or peppered me,


they shotgunned

my garage

with so much white

that I must park

the truck outside

from April to August.

It’s a small price to pay.

I know my swallows


no such thing

as reciprocity,

but they have become

my sublime

mosquito-eating machine,

the most perfect


that has always been

here under the sun.

but in this case,

the moon.

I leave the garage door

open all the time

for my swallows,

and the window too,

and I tack boxes

below the nests

to catch the droppings.

The real show begins

when the eggs hatch,

and the four or five chicks

from each of the six nests,

launch their lives

as swallows

in my garage.

What wildness it is!

A tabernacle

of nature


all the water

humans need

to douse

their world on fire

is there.

All the answers

to avoid answering

the question:

What color is it

when black is burned?”

are revealed.

It is so obvious,

that I,

in passing by,

conscious of

the swallows’ nests

in my garage,

saw Great Nature’s Face,

and did not

let it pass

infinite by me.

I know nothing of

swallow biology

except they

mate for life.

There’s pleasure

in not knowing more,

the writer’s arcane of it all,

the Annie Dillard

the John McPhee,

noticing something

to death,

or worse,

to the point of

no mystery.

Cindy once said,

on our walk

on the refuge,

Just stop talking

about nature and

let it be

without you.”

She is gone from our home

but the swallows return.

We used to talk to them together.

I wake them,

all of them,

in the morning,

still dark,

but dawning,

as I tread my garage

on my way

to walk the dogs

in the woods of the refuge.

Hello birdies!” I greet them

with my swallow greeting voice.

They alight and our day has begun.

When they begin to mass,

I watch them more,

but never talk

about it

to anyone.

Who is there to tell?

What does it say

about a man whose

best friends are his

three big dogs and

the thirty to forty swallows

that live in his

shit stained garage?

What does it say about a man

who would vote

Republican the rest

of his life,

and renounce

the Rolling Stones,

if it guaranteed

the next occupants

housed here

let the nests be,


and want

to recline on the lawn,

maybe even alone,

and watch the swallows

mass on the power line?