August Baby

We went walking through the arboretum

at the end of our last summer together,

admiring the plants as they inhaled

and exhaled in the August heat, caught

up in the squint of eyes in deep slant sunlight

and the simple solace of being palm to palm.

Through slats of honeyed light and shade

I saw motion in the flattened grass up ahead,

beneath the scabbed branches of a dogwood tree.

The gentle fidget took the form of a baby bird,  

damp with bluish feathers, fallen

or pushed from its nest somewhere above.

It looked skyward through the slit

of its narrowed eye that bulged, half shut

and dark, like a bruise from its head.

The repeated shrug of a broken wing

almost raised it from the dirt, but could not

shake the ants, which crawled on over its body,

feelers prodding at the soft, bald places, unbothered

by the shudder of a fast infant heart beat below.

What do we do? I asked. I let go of his hand.

I dropped to my knees and watched

the ants stutter over the bird’s skin.

The chest rose and fell, as if moved by a tiny

accordion breathing silent music inside.

I felt his hand on my back and heard

his mouth saying I don’t know and more

people came to watch the slow show

and none of them knew what to do, either.

I ached, I ached at nature’s strange patterns,

the helpless gape of the bird’s open mouth,

the simple origami of his fingers

when they folded into mine, the lines

of light and shadow drawn in the blades

of grass. The flesh beneath the feathers

was as pink as sherbet. It looked like it had been born

that day, a summer baby that would not see the brisk

umber evenings of fall.

I had never seen a thing so young.

And still we left it as we found it, alone

with the sunlight, and the birdsong, and the breeze.   

 

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