A Year of Seeing: “The dead cardinal”: August 31



The dead cardinal


The thing about windows is that

you don’t want them so clean that

the birds can’t tell whether it’s 

an opening to a room to explore

or the impending cause of their demise.

I have seen some people place

stickers of little butterflies there,

but I think that’s a bit tacky, really,

so I prefer just not to clean them obsessively 

and let life leave a mark that can be seen.


Just the other day I was watching a program

about creating wildflower gardens

and my heart knew as soon as I heard 

the bird hit the window. It was dead.

There on the patio lay a female cardinal,

her feathers creamy brown with hints of red.

The body lay perfectly still, and still beautiful, too.

I walked out onto the patio barefoot 

with a large spoon from the stove

and stooped next to the beautiful creature.


They always love the sunflower seeds, don’t they?

We feed our birds like the children they are–

children of God in their own way, beloved.

The cats love them, of course, and spend hours

in chairs by the patio windows, dreaming. 

When we step out to refill the three feeders,

we can hear them in the trees, calling out

and encouraging us to hurry up so they can feast.

They are like small proverbs with feathers,

prayers that flutter by and perch for a while

and then move on to where they are going.


I took her small body and buried it in the large pot

with the magnolia tree that I love so much.

As I slid the dirt back over, I just sat there 

for a moment, giving thanks and grieving.

Then, a few days later, I noticed the sparrow

tucked in the branches of that same tree

crying its heart out about something 

I can only imagine, and that made me smile.


August 31, 2020


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