Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Death of the Bird






For every bird there is this last migration:
Once more the cooling year kindles her heart;
With a warm passage to the summer station
Love pricks the course in lights across the chart.
Year after year a speck on the map, divided
By a whole hemisphere, summons her to come;
Season after season, sure and safely guided,
Going away she is also coming home.
And being home, memory becomes a passion
With which she feeds her brood and straws her nest,
Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart’s possession
And exiled love mourning within the breast.
The sands are green with a mirage of valleys;
The palm-tree casts a shadow not its own;
Down the long architrave of temple or palace
Blows a cool air from moorland scarps of stone.















And day by day the whisper of love grows stronger;
That delicate voice, more urgent with despair,
Custom and fear constraining her no longer,
Drives her at last on the waste leagues of air.
A vanishing speck in those inane dominions,
Single and frail, uncertain of her place,
Alone in the bright host of her companions,
Lost in the blue unfriendliness of space,
She feels it close now, the appointed season:
The invisible thread is broken as she flies;
Suddenly, without warning, without reason,
The guiding spark of instinct winks and dies.
















Try as she will, the trackless world delivers
No way, the wilderness of light no sign,
The immense and complex map of hills and rivers
Mocks her small wisdom with its vast design.
And darkness rises from the eastern valleys,
And the winds buffet her with their hungry breath,
And the great earth, with neither grief nor malice,
Receives the tiny burden of her death.

A. D. Hope


It has only been a few days, but they have elongated in the most
bizarre way. I wake up far too early, and there's a hole in my
day that I can't explain. Right now it feels like it must be 9:00
at night, when in truth it's not even 5:00 o'clock.

How can I NOT be reminded by everything? My watch band was
all chewed up, for she loved chewing my watch more than anything.
I had to change the band, not because it was chewed but because I
couldn't bear to look at it. A little candy dish I was putting away
used to be her bird-bath. I've never seen a bird fling herself into
bathing like Paco did: water flew everywhere and soaked
everything.

Today in the dollar store I was looking at craft stuff, and my hand
 nearly went to a bag of bright buttons that I knew she would love.
 When we get home, the house is dead-silent, devoid of the peeps
 and chirps and trilling that told me Paco wanted to come out and
see me.

A lot of birds don't want to come out of the cage. Paco couldn't
wait to come out and see everyone,  and screamed like a brat when
she had to go back in. But it was the cage that killed her, wasn't it?

We could have had years together. I still don't know for certain what
killed her, but we have to assume it was a fall. Then why didn't I set
the cage up better?

Did she swallow something inedible, with her eternal beaking of
everything in sight? I couldn't watch her every minute, could I?
Yet I did, as much as possible.

I loved it when she drank, for she would tip her head back and
"chew" the water, clicking her beak. If she didn't like a seed in her
dish, she picked it up and threw it across the room.





One day I decided to make a stack of alphabet beads, little cubes
about 1/2" across. When I was finished, she strutted over to it and
sent the whole thing flying with her beak. But then. . . she picked
up a cube, walked over to another one and began to tip and tilt the
cube this way and that, as if trying to get the two to balance
on each other. Birds can be taught those kinds of things, but this
quickly? After seeing it only once?

Her favorite perch was on my right shoulder. She would butt her
head on my chin, and nestle. Sometimes she just wanted me to
cover her with my two hands while she went peep, peep, peep.

Paco was beginning to learn a skill that identified her as female:
she was learning how to make nesting material out of paper.
She would beak the edge from left to right so that it was neatly
 perforated, then pull and pull to try to get it off. Then she would
chew the strip until it looked like that packing material you use for
 parcels.

And then there are the grandchildren: they adored her, and she was
gregarious enough to visit everyone in equal measure. She even
astounded my son by hopping a long distance off my arm to land
on his wrist and clamber up his arm to his shoulder. Once he
delighted Erica by snacking on her hair.

I feel stunned and disoriented. How could this have happened?
I know many people seem to think "it's just a bird", as if I am
grieving a dead goldfish. They have never had that sharp, sweet,
canny attachment, nor the nestling feathery closeness. I was her
mother, her mate, her everything.

She lived for exactly 100 days.






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