Posted by jdg | Friday, November 07, 2008

Sometime after seven this morning my daughter is startled awake by a bird crashing into the window of her bedroom. After the routine of morning we leave for preschool and she sees it on the stoop, a tiny Pine Siskin circling slowly on its side against the concrete, its left wing and foot twisted and mangled. I put a hand on her back and gently nudge her towards the car. From the back seat, she implores me to bring it to the bird hospital. I tell her that I will.

When I return, the bird is still alive, about one foot from where we left it. The neighbors' cat watches, tortured behind a window. I crouch, and it flutters pathetically against my touch. Turning it to its other side, I see the extent of the damage: this little bird will never fly again. My mind turns to violence: the shovel; the hammer in the closet downstairs. Not like that, I decide. I go inside and reach for a small rag, returning to the porch to sit down next to the injured bird. I just sit there for a minute and finally slip the rag over its head and hold its beak closed, gentle but firm. I keep this grip the beak and sternum steady for twenty seconds through several bouts of urgent fluttering. Thirty seconds now, just twitches and frail scrambling. Forty seconds or more and it stops, finally as still as all the others I've buried in the garden.