A Tragedy of Birds

Floating Ladders3
By John Brantingham

Five years old almost,
out behind the farthest raspberry bush
in the backyard,
against the chain link fence
but cross legged,
and drowsed in the late August heat,
teaching myself physics by flexing
and unflexing the dead crow’s wing,
stretching it father each time
until it snaps off in my hand.
When it cracks, a spume of dust
forms itself into the shape of a kidney.
Little mites crawl on my hand.

Thirteen years old with a pellet pistol
and in front of friends.
I draw on the bird above me in a 17th century
duelling pose and fire, hitting the thing.
We watch it tumble out of the air
and onto the neighbor’s front lawn.
My buddy says “one shot”
with a kind of awe because we’d watched
The Deer Hunter on tape the day before.

Twenty-five years old just married
and cooking a chicken for my wife.
I make the thing dance like
it’s in the “Sledgehammer” video.
Blood runs thinly down my hands
and arms until my wife laughs,
and I clean it off with hot water
and lots of soap.
We’re not going out tonight.
We have our first tiny apartment
with an atrium in the middle of it
and in the evening we’ll turn off the lights
and watch wild parrots that roost
on the slats on the top of the atrium,
squawking their complaints to each other
about being taken from their jungle home
and put in cages until their people
have grown tired of them
and then let them out in this world to fight
for themselves in whatever flocks they can form.
They tell each other
about their first homes
and what life was like when they were young.
They squawk about being fledglings.
They squawk about feeling so alone.


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