Birds score zero by what our IQ math books teach,
yet with sandy tracks of shorebird psi and seagull del
the birds scratch out sound mathematics on the beach
to solve for what the sands and breakers have to tell.
This one, a plover, runs short spurts along the sand.
To us it’s odd, as if some silly exercise
has told it run a dozen steps. Stop. Freeze and stand.
Then run again. But stillness lets it analyze
what its feet are measuring through sand and ooze
with minute sensors feeling hints of what and where
masked by wave-shocked sands and shifting kelp--faintest cues;
a triangulation that suggests something’s there.
No feathered statue now, the plover turns aside,
its eyes aimed at a spot by the reckoning toes,
a swift calculus that says there, take one long stride
then probe in deep where an unwary sand crab goes;
has its own sense of place, its own arithmetic.
But this time the answer arrives too slow to say
scuttle back deep into the sea-sand slurry’s thick
safety from shorebird bills, immune to the array
of bird-brained equations whose roots when applied
extract prey from the places it hides or holds fast,
while the ceaseless susurrus of wave, sand and tide
tallies the endless addition of each now to the past.