I haven't a clue if the whippoorwill has ever been to Brooklyn, nor if it's back. I know so little about birds, other than the fact that I'm tired of seeing little silhouettes of them on tote bags.
For several mornings now I've been watching a couple of birds that I learned are American Starlings. They collect dry grass from a swatch of earth surrounded by four brick walls behind my building. It isn't a backyard really, but it does attract birds not only because there's signs of green life there, but also because there exist defunct clotheslines and robust knots of cable wire that lunge between buildings.
I don't know if I'm watching the same starlings every day, for as I've said I don't have an eye for birds. What I see is their carrying strands of golden flint that droop from their beaks at a horizontal; I watch their jerky motions, how one seems to be a more fastidious worker than the other. They're black mostly, and not small. They flutter straight upwards from the ground as if eyelids batting, a vertical ascent that looks tiresome and awkward. They stop to rest upon the dangling clumps of wire, swinging to and fro for a minute or two, or they flap to the fire escape right in front of my window to perch for a moment upon the black glossy metal that's been painted so many times it looks itself to be dripping.
Sometimes the grass strands fall from the birds' beaks but they don't seem to notice. I just stand there with my cup of coffee, avoiding my early morning work of building scenes. It's as if we're all there taking a break, enjoying the view. And the starlings continue on with their work in the general direction of the building next to mine, to the cement rooftop there. They fly out of sight to build a nest that I am unable to see, and then they come back empty-beaked, ready to keep building. I am quick to believe in death omens, but here in Brooklyn as the sun barely makes its way above to shine once again upon concrete, the universe is reminding me that yes, of course, hope does spring eternal.