From the archives – For a Bird Found Dead on my Doorstep by David Parsley


For a Bird Found Dead on my Doorstep

We found him after lunch just
out of the snow.
My wife touched the still-warm breast,
one limber claw drawn in an infant curl.

Yellow as sun, too exotic for our climate,
he would have come while we were eating,
sent while the season’s first stormfall
and its clouds clung to surrounding hills.

We watch those clouds leave our valley today.
Trees and brambles shake down their snow.

I remind her we don’t always know
how hunger approaches our door.
We look for it as we can, ignorant
of where it comes from, and when.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 29, 2016 — by David Parsley

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim


4 responses to “From the archives – For a Bird Found Dead on my Doorstep by David Parsley”

  1. Sarah Russell Avatar

    An apt poem for our times, Christine. Thanks.

  2. Dave Bonta Avatar

    I don’t know if it’s fair to challenge this poem on factual grounds, but as a nature nerd I have to say I am very frustrated here. Assuming the poem is nonfiction and the author is North American, I would suppose the bird is an American goldfinch, which is a plenty cold-hardy species. He implies it’s something like a yellow warbler, but I’m not aware of warblers ever choosing not to migrate. Or maybe he means “exotic” in an ecological sense, and he’s talking about some urban population of parakeets or canaries insufficiently adapted to the local climate?

    I find birds dead on my doorstep from time to time, most recently a white-throated sparrow, and the cause of death is always the same: collision with the glass door. Most birds are unable to process the reflections in windows as anything other than a continuation of the sky or landscape, and if they fly into them too hard, can break their necks. American Bird Conservancy has a whole section of their website devoted to the problem.

    1. Christine Klocek-Lim Avatar

      I approach this poem as though the narrator has little birding knowledge (the bulk of my acquaintances). Therefore, the emotional resonance still fits. However, I think your idea of a tropical species (escaped from an owner/pet store, perhaps?) also works. As for flying into windows: yes. I’ve also had birds fly into my car, and that could also apply to this poem’s poor dead creature.

      1. David Parsley Avatar

        Hi, I welcome the conversation about the poem’s literal context. The story is true. And your speculations match those of my wife (a very knowledgeable rescuer of animals, including wild birds, and a worker at a pet store) and myself. The bird was an exotic of the finch family, probably escaped from a nearby home. The sense that the bird had been “sent” is an intentional irony, but also part of the poem’s understated inquiry into that most irresistible concept, meaning or its absence.

        Side note: nice photograph selected to accompany the poem. Thank you.

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