Ballad for a dying bird one Sunday

IMG_5569I cradled the near-dead bird in my palm, it was the size of a chicken egg and felt warm, I could feel it breathing, though it had its eyes closed like it was wincing, fanning the air with its feet, pulling them in close, curling into a ball. It had a tuft of orange/yellow hair on its head, like a finch (my cat had nearly killed it and left it by the back door but I’d moved it to a garden bed—then thought I couldn’t be such a wuss about things, I had to go out and care for it): and I knew I should put it out of its pain but I couldn’t stand the logistics, there was no easy way: so I put it in the folds of a tarp by the hot tub, hoping it would either recover there or die a peaceful death, out of the cold and wind.

And when I got to the lake most of it was frozen over, something I’d never seen before: it wasn’t frozen enough you could walk onto it, just the top inch or so, like a skin of ice, enough to hold some fallen pine branches by the shore, suspended.

And I heard what sounded like a recording of birdsong, a really high-pitched chirping (wondered if there were birds trapped under the ice, but that didn’t make sense, how I could hear them calling like that): but it was no birdsong, just the sound of the ice shifting, some of it cracking, a queer, high-pitched chirp: and I squatted there by the shore with my iPhone recording it, then realized the last voice memo was from Germany last April at the spring beer festival with Eberhard, the night a group of teenaged girls tried to kick us out of our table because they had it reserved, and even though the time of their reservation hadn’t started yet they basically asked Eberhard if we wouldn’t mind leaving because there were a lot of them coming—and Eberhard shook his head no, it wasn’t time, and we both sat there quiet for a while nodding our heads, drinking, feeling old.

When I got back from the lake and onto the sofa, Roxy climbed on top of me and sat there with her lower lip puffed out the way she does sometimes, the look she cops now since we had a canine tooth pulled: and it makes her look like some mob character with a facial deformity, it adds to her menace—and the dog has the same lower lip look too, and I wonder if one of them picked it up from the other.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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20 Responses to Ballad for a dying bird one Sunday

  1. ksbeth says:

    it sounds like they’re in the same gang now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those home mercy-killings of little critters are really tough. I had to drown a baby rabbit once a long time ago and it was unreal — damn cats and their hunting instinct.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      We’re done with cats after this one. Reminds me of Franzen’s book Freedom, I can see the inspiration behind that, all those cat-bird neighborhood slayings.

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  3. Joy Pixley says:

    Funny how a day can go from one thing to another, and they’re really not connected, it’s just coincidence, but your brain connects them anyway, like dying birds and the sound of ice cracking, and flighty girls in Germany from long ago and sure, the thread is there somewhere, even if it’s just that’s it’s your life, and one moment flows from the other that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Hey, thanks for the thread comment really: I’ve been part-tantalized and maddened by the thread, trying to make a spine for my book, rewrite #2. Like the Bowie song “it ain’t easy.” Thanks for the insight Joy, you looked inside my head. Sorry for that. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  4. byebyebeer says:

    Good on Eberhard for not caving. The end bit about the dog picking that look up from the cat (?) is great.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Ha, thanks Kristen. Not the kind of thing he’d cave on. In fact, can’t think of anything for which he would! (Not a caver, unlike me.) Bill

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  5. Never mind the mercy killings. What is that an ad for? A movie? An event? 500 students in a beer garden? She’s my type. Girl next door in lederhosen.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rossmurray1 says:

    I’ve only heard ice moan once, when I was a kid on a winter Scout trip. It was a big lake, and the ice was thick, so it wasn’t singing but only the occasional boom. It’s all about frequencies. That trip remains vivid in my mind, oddly. We set up rabbit snares. Caught one. Skinned it. Ate it. I can hear the rabbit squealing in its trap, but I think that’s a false memory, guilt-induced, speaking of killing.

    Liked by 1 person

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