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A Family of Robins, by Penthea Burns


A family of robins
An adult pair and two juveniles
Explore the grassy yard
In front of my house
Shaded by the maple tree
Living from this land
Taking what they need

For much of my life
I underestimated robins
I thought them plain
Then I listened
Their song is
Lyrical and
Beautifully complex
I didn’t know

The lyrics and verse that we settlers live by
Authorize us in believing
We can take what we desire
Control of this colony

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea
And over the birds of the heavens
And over the livestock
And over all the earth
And over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Who is us?
The mystical powers of creation?
Forces of conception and being?
Or some small man writing to justify dominion and taking?
Some small man who lost what the robin knows
About sustenance
Pausing to sing

We misunderstand our mandate
We’ve been misled

Would the powers that made a robin sing like that
Grant dominion?

Like some greedy, old man
With a glint in his eyes
Passing out dominance
To greedy, grabbing hands
Seeking profit and more profit
By blowing off mountaintops
Damming rivers
Owning water
Poisoning honeybees
Polluting air
Leaving animals to die on the road’s shoulder

Finishing with earth
We look to take the heavens next

I want to understand
How we lost our likeness to
The creation energy of this universe
In rhythm with the earth
Seeking sustenance and balance
Indigenous to land and wind and water
Reciprocity between me
And beings who inhabit this space

I am certain that the powers of the universe
Intended to grant us
Not dominion
But responsibility
Creation, love, and regard for
The fish of the sea, birds of the heavens
Livestock, every creeping thing
And all the earth

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