“The European robin is one of our most familiar birds, commonly known as the gardener’s friend due to its propensity to accompany gardeners as they dig the ground. Despite its friendly nature it can be aggressive towards other birds and is one of the few species to sing throughout the winter.”
Out on the concrete I see in front what looks like a bundle of fabric,
wrapped and discarded on my property;
indignant thoughts surface of how? And how dare you? desecrate my holy ground
with this foreign, careless act, this unfamiliar, unapproved thing,
but upon further inspection realize the small body—
perfect in its repose, feathers smoothed, beak closed,
eyes half-opened as if entranced.
I glance upward toward the clouds, jagged branches bare slicing
dishwater sky into fractals searching
the cause of this corpse’s plummet,
but the side-woods refuse to share any secrets
so I am left to feather my own deductions: an icy song
sung in key foul; untoward advances on neighboring mate;
a wrong-place-wrong-time flight. Whatever the case, there is no blood,
no matted down, no insects lining up to swarm. I take pictures.
I revel in its perfection. I inhale the muted line between worlds
as I scoot its still soft body onto cardboard with another as my implement.
I examine the exquisite auburn breast and its cerulean wings:
Such a specimen deserving a respectful rest.
I gather my shovel and make my way to the place where earth dips
and vertical stone juts: The Headstone, it has been named, waiting for this moment.
I dig in the soft December dirt which will not be frozen for some time, if at all.
The body slides off board and into hole, sideways landing, eye still staring, rim copper-brown.
I try to manipulate the body to sit properly on its feet,
to give it one last chance to take flight,
but it is too fresh to give into any prodding
so I cover it with soil and pat it down with my foot
and think: now we have something.
by M.R. Williamson
Editor’s Note: The entrancing narrative of this poem is broken only by the startling imagery and closing lines.