June 14th, 1994

Upupa – hoopoe bird.

A flash of orange barred with brown and beige

darts up from the road.

Disturbed but not afraid.

A sudden glimpse of joy,

untamed and fearless.

Too fearless, for now I find you

amongst the rocks and weeds

cradling the scraggly rosemary outside my door.

I pick you up. Limp. Lifeless.

A nothing in my hand.

How small you are –

how long and slender is your beak.

And even now in death your orange crest

is an epitome of what a crest should be.

How long have you been lying there?

Poor hoopoe bird, are your nestlings and your mate

still waiting to be fed?

Alone now, who will comfort her?

We humans have those who try to ease our pain.

We humans, at our best,

love beauty for its sake alone.

The sight of you flitting up as I drove in

thrilled my heart anew each day.

All that is only memory now,

a soaring melody once heard, a fleeting fugue.

I turn you over in my hand

and realize, recoiling slightly,

that what was your life is changing form –

a natural transition –

and while my mind tells me that as creation

the worm is also intricate and marvelous

I cannot help but shrink from what you will soon become.

The outer lifeless hulls of what we use

we throw away.

Potato peels, tomato cans, cartons emptied of their contents,

magazines once read and riffled through.

Assimilated and now a part of us,

what’s left is cast aside without a thought.

But I cannot bear to throw you in the garbage can

and in deference to your beauty

and the joy you gave me

I take you to the garden and cover you in soft brown earth,

marking the site with two rough stones

and adding the blue tear of a flower to your grave.

2 thoughts on “Upupa

  1. Erika

    Just a lovely piece.

    I first (and last) saw a Upupa – hoopoe bird on our 2019 visit. Our landlord, Fausto, happened to ask me if I had ever seen one as we at lunch in Torri. The next day, i took the Cinque Cento X (which has a Jeep chasis) down an impossible ravine of a road, to the edge of being stuck. And there in the middle of the gully was a Upupa – hoopoe bird. Magnificient, perhaps more so for its defiant posture, and location in the dry wash, as if knowing that the car could go no further or I would be the one in the wilderness. Instead it stood like a monument to color, nearly a peacock in Armani. It was as exciting as seeing the herd of cinghiale roaring across the roadway one night, like ghosts proving that there were fearsome things that go bump in the night. And so I completely understand your funeral for the deceased hoopoe…

    Just finished a reading session of Treasure Island with Vicenzo on WhatsApp. So precious to have these video sessions. Like stopping by on a grandparents weekend visit. I still ache with love and with missing those kids. Vincenzo and I do have a special relationship. Easy to talk about nothing and yet everything. Detail matters to a 10 year old.

    There is no doubt that we cannot make the trip this year with the virus mutating and such a small number of Italians vaccinated… Including Piero, who is waiting his turn. Closing neighborhoods to wandering in Firenze?? Different regulations in different countries in flight to Italy?

    And we are only now looking into how I can bring 4-6 weeks of immunoglobin (worth a fortune and irreplaceable) from here to there…. multiple documents (here and apparently at the Italian end) and preapprovals and it must be kept below 70 degrees… But we will have time to work that out…

    We survived the 108 f heat… barely. It was incredible. Never in history that high here. Candles melted. Few have air conditioning. Apparently nearly 500 people died of heat related exposure in Canada where temps were as high as 112. Climate change. What a hoax.

    Just finished my new self infusion subcutaneous treatment. It works much better. But the old body is a pain… kidney stones have danced onto the stage like sugar plum fairies. The girls are all well. I spend what time I have writing and on the girls. It is time to help Gina cut loose from us, get her own life. For her sake. Her new concierge job may give her that opportunity. And Linda is well–a happy spirit.

    So just a note — loved the poem

    Be well! Ciao to our friend. Glad to see Claudio and Alba’s programs chugging back to life!! Is Constanze living with them or on her own?

    Abbracci! J


  2. Dearest Erika,

    You are always teaching me things. Even though I’m a lifelong bird lover, I was not familiar with this poetically named bird. But of course after your poignant piece, I had to look him up.

    How like you to treat him with such reverence, both in life and in his passing. In your careful hands he lives on.

    To paraphrase a line from “A Death in the Family” that never fails to move me, we remember him kindly before his time of trouble, and in the hour of his taking away.

    Envoyé de mon Di-Phone


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