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Starlings in the Slipstream

Outside the Store, cowbirds and starlings dot the pavement, scavenging crumbs as they would other birds’ nests, ekeing out existence as robbers and cowards.

The starling was introduced into North America by a courtier of the English language, a patron of the arts who released two of every bird mentioned in Shakespearean language into Central Park as homage to the quill. The starlings proliferated and flew in murmurations across the country, gathering in numbers, thieving nests as they went.

And now they’re on the patio outside where, against better judgement, I toss them shreds of tortilla and watch as they look at me expectantly with varied colors of eyes.

“What do you have for me?”

“Are you my friend?”

And they’ll probably fly away with sated belly to fight a mockingbird—and you don’t fuck with mockingbirds—but they’ll do it anyway, just evolutionary subsistence and existence, the two sometimes being the same.

In the canyon, in the morning, I wait for the woodpecker to announce itself, rapping its head against the eucalyptus; I also watch the crows and wait for the hummingbirds. I’m depressed. I’m at the nadir of my bipolarity and I’m waiting for the lift, which is an exercise in patience, just like watching birds.

I’ve tried to describe this, but words fail, so I throw my tortilla crumbs to thieves and watch their rapid eyes dart as if in some cautious thankfulness.

What is wrong with me? I commune with the crows and the alley cats on my daily walks, hug the plants. I have made friends with the homeless people I meet, crouching down to talk to them, listening to their stories while they wait for sunshine and for the stores to open. My friend Doug—he says—I look better, right? And he gestures to his beard which actually is trimmed smarter than mine, and I give him knucks and we pore over the morning paper.

The other day I found Doug crying, and it wasn’t because of his situation or his friends downtown (which he’s told me in detail about), but because National City is now passing out carts to homeless people so there’s no more necessary thievery of grocery carts downtown, so that starlings of people can stop robbing Vons and Ralph’s of their carriages, and he reads this all in the morning paper. He offers to buy me a steak with his EBT. He is a good man.

I’m depressed. Doug points out the G7 conference on A-1, and I blanch. It’s hard for me to deal in this new world, and someone so used to Orwell, Huxley, DeLillo, and Wallace.

The can collector on 31st offers me a good morning and I’m happy to oblige a return. His life is harder than mine. He asks for a light, and I have some matches from Doug. The guy opens an Altoids can to demonstrate some effeminately-wrapped joints, and I light one for him as he roots around the cannisters. We all need our comfort.

Starlings in the slipstream. Starlings like a daydream. We can all exist and subsist and all at once. Love each other. Be thieves of love and murmurating participants in a bustle of wings. Love, and love.

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