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.