She tugs at the remains of some bird’s last year’s nest,
then flies away with material for her new one
while the father hovers near, watching the small bird
tumbled from another nest three days ago
and brought in my dog’s mouth for Susanna to discover.
“Open Morrie, open!”
She pried his jaws apart to find the small bird whole
inside his mouth,
rain soaked and bedraggled,
his tail feathers either gone
or not yet grown.
For three days, we sheltered the baby bird with heater on,
taking him for feedings on the garden rock
where his father and mother could find him
and return once or twice per hour to fill him up
like a small mechanical bird
purchased in the market
who, when wound up, hops
then sits dormant until fueled again.
This small bird for three days and four nights
survived, hale and hearty.
Loud chirps brought the mother, at first,
until yesterday, when we could see
a new nest in construction.
Then the rufous father came, first to the rock to feed him,
then later, clinging to the sides of the cage
to fill their nestless chick like a small car
from the fuel pump.
This morning dawned overcast,
and though the chick needed feeding,
when I neared the rock,
I felt his tremors
and took him back to the house
for another 10 minutes warming,
then tucked him into an old nest
I’d found years ago and saved.
I hoped for protection
and warmth and security,
perhaps a memory of the nest he’d fallen from.
Then I carried him in his cage
back to the tree to be fed.
From the hammock,
far enough away to pose no threat,
I watched the father’s descent
and an ascent too quick.
Then no return,
so that when minutes later I searched the cage
for the small bird tucked into that scavenged nest inside,
I found the nest empty–
one ruffled back against the cage bottom,
claws curled upwards.
There is no difference
equal to the difference
between a body chirping–
and its empty husk
after the life has left.
No question bigger than:
What is life that we can only see it
through what it inhabits,
and where does it go
when it soars away?
I buried Little Bird in this planter underneath the yellow flower.