A number: 62 sticks in my mind
remembering plump birds by the fence
running by twos, threes, ten at once
a procession; quail crowd down that lane

In those days the birds were easy
“chi-Ca-go,” their sound on the hills
carried along bluffs, in still churchyards
deep eyes watched from shrubbery

She asked how could one know
with such precision that 62 birds
had moved through the undergrowth
as if this needed a miracle of fingers

But I, too, had counted them
an automatic response to nature
asking the question again and again
I said I had seen them go

I cannot pass this one bend of road
but that the quail do not chuckle there
recounting those same 62 journeys
their movements tallied: by twos, threes, ten

The quail have not passed this way
since our garden grew through tame
to a denial of all wilder needs
we attend such orderly beds

For who is left to ask the count
of birds piling through memory
though my ears listen for the calls
my eyes take in the changes