The Destiny of Us

The Destiny of Us


The Destiny of Us

Fenton Johnson / April 2011


Oyez, oyez! Rise and hail!

Bush wren, emu, crake and rail,

Moa, parakeet, and chat,

Puffleg, chiffchaff, after that

An aged passenger is sat.

With the dodo, twelve’s complete,

Ivory bill may take his seat

In jurisprudent black.


In the docket, insolent,

Man and woman, unrepent.

Smooth-skinned bags of blood and sass –

What fool would defend our past?

Only pigeon’s left at hand

To justify the ways of man.

Objection raised –“rock dove” requested,

As “pigeon” is contempt-invested.

Hoots and trills until the Wood

Accepts the change, as well he should,

Knocks his bill against the daïs,

Calls the witnesses to places.


Evidence is scrutinized,

Gathered by the airborne spies,

Sparrows, starlings, grackles too –

They’ve been taking notes on you.

All that noise you thought was fuss?

Clandestine warblers watching us.

Every action marked and rated,

All injustice tabulated.


Condor prosecutor bows,

Raising high her wrinkled brows.


Life divides in homelands three,

Terra firma, sky and sea.

For Earth it once had been so planned

To be the paradise of man.

And yet man would not be content

With that for which they had been sent

And must begin to throw their shit

On fowl and fellow resident.

For this they should not be forgiven

Nor now, nor ever once be shriven

But left to wallow in their waste,

The gall of their own filth to taste.


Ignorance makes no amends.

Consider this, my feathered friends –

That justice may in fact be done.

For those who gave no quarter

Should be receiving none.


The turning earth, a window bright,

Illuminates the rock dove’s flight.

From far remove the sun’s long reach

Spotlights the gray defender’s speech.

For now the courtroom is aglow,

The rock dove struts – her feathers show

The question’s iridescent heart.


Heart-breaking, Condor, from the beak

Of one who knows whereof she speaks.

But some among us understand

That man is part of some big plan.

Who said it all had to make sense?

Life is its only recompense,

An order that o’er all presides,

In which it’s foolish to take sides.

Covetous of friend and neighbor,

For all we’re given, they must labor,

Even joy, so freely had —

They must practice to be glad.

Their compensation for this pain?

Too much capacity of brain.

One wonders at the Mighty’s plan

In making such a thing as man.

But condemnation’s a mistake

Judgment is not ours to make.


Mercy is not strain’d to fall

But comes like grace to one and all.

If they were each judged by their flaws

They’d all be bound for hellish maws.

Fellow prisoners of travail

And wonder, too – we shall prevail

Only if we learn to shrive

In hopes that they will learn to live.

Divorce themselves from price and wealth

Live only for the sake of health.

Begin each morning with a bow

Grateful for the here and now.


No need to puzzle or predict

The feathered courtroom’s wise verdict,

Or what their sentence was about –

Our time is here. We live it out.




  • Bill Coan

    What? No dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon? No shriven shrike? (Sorry, but this thing thrills. It is a joy to read, and now I want to play, too.)

    OK, seriously: This thoughtful, large-spirited, thoroughly and Thoreau-ly entertaining piece of incantatory birdsong makes my heart dance. Gerard, Fenton. Fenton, Gerard.

    Congratulations and thanks. And get thee to a microphone.

    April 14, 2011 at 6:14 am
  • I don’t know how I missed this last year, but I’m glad I caught it now.

    Thank you, Fenton, for this fine adventure, even though it ends with us wallowing in our own waste. (If only it weren’t so true.) Lots of fun with words along the way, and imagery.

    The birds have been watching us around here lately—I forgot to tell you the other day about Lucas’s triplet adolescent bluejays, who bonded with him quite charmingly this spring, flopping around the back yard like a comedy team for weeks and squawking at him to fill the bird feeders.

    Nice work, and thank you for your patience while I found it.

    August 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm