Wade’s speaker is surprised by the birds, maybe a thousand, as they take flight, more or less in unison and in shifting patterns. In the lexicon of birders, a flock of starlings is called a “murmuration," and anyone who’s seen even a small murmuration of starlings rising and then waltzing in the air might agree that they seem a “congress / of wings.” That includes both the chummy accord and the corruption we might hear in the word “congress.” “Commingles,” “Maneuvering,” and “schooling” are also unromantic words that might not smell entirely wonderful; they might even feel close to something sinister in a poem that’s almost mystically positive about the starlings, for the most part. Remember this slight ambivalence as we continue to marvel at the birds' harmony in large waves that “undulate” and “turn liquid” as they rise.
Also, note that it's a marsh bird that (paradoxically?) favors hot, dry climates, but the immediate connotation of “dairy” suggests Midwestern or Northeastern greenness. So the poem’s title info, “Birding at the Dairy,” might set up a contrast--yellow-headed blackbirds from the high plains and desert appear in the creamy Midwest. Landscape, birds, and relative humidity are all somewhat surprising or twofold in the poem’s world. Is this yen and yang, or a duality that implies conflict? Whatever the answer, surprise, if not unease, is an important feature.
Beauty wins, but in the wonder of it, it's also foreign and at least vaguely threatening. It's a beauty that is fleeting yet timeless, "fluid" yet suggestive of perfection and eternity, especially if we allow for the role of memory, which preserves our experiences with the gorgeous and the stunning.
|cardinal, snow, ambivalence|
In the face of magnificence, we are diminished, dwarfed, threatened by an image so alien and large, so much better than we are. It might even be divine; in the end, the starling's murmuration is