Warm-Up Wednesdays | Contemplations on Death and Birds and Death Birds | 1/4/2023

So we’re starting out 2023 with, um… whatever this is. Prose poetry, if I’m flattering myself.

Warning for, as the title implies, discussion of death, particularly animal death.

There is a dead vulture in the street. You know this because you see it every day except Sunday when you cannot gather your battered body together enough to leave the house. The bird has been there for weeks now, one wing forced upward toward the sky when a car passes. The artificial breeze makes the feathers flutter, but it cannot, will not, be stirred back to life. Or so you hope.

Contemplating the hows and the whys of that death is an exercise in misery. But your imagination is overactive and the electro pop song you’ve listened to forty times cannot drown it out. The synth is as much background noise as the engine is, superseded by internal monologue.

A car? A telephone pole? (There are no telephone poles outside of your head, so why even suggest it? Because you always hear about birds dying that way? Even owls, especially owls.) Simply stopping? Alive one second and then dropping like a stone?

That wing keeps waving, the sort of stiff raised hand of someone attempting and failing to be casual. “Hey. Vulture here.”

You recently saw a truck with cages full of chickens. Correction, hens. Ladies, all. The sky was gray and that same sickly gray cast spread to the world below, but those hens were bone-white. Ghost-white. Some of them stared out but some more were so obviously limp not with sleep but something more permanent. You tamped down the urge to throw up.

Your attempts at vegetarianism snapped back into place like a rogue gear finally found. The machinery rolls and clicks. Your heart beats more, harder, after you see those that stopped.

That empathy is one of your best/worst qualities. How easily you see yourself limp, feathers fluttering in the harsh wind of traffic. On the street, riding above; what does it matter if the result is the same?

You are a to-be-continued. You have to tell yourself that. Every moment you’re alive is a soft, heavy warmth, bread pudding stuffed between your ribs, cushioned on your ticking heart. The good kind of bread pudding, too, the syrupy-soft kind.

Birds would like to eat that. Maybe not owls, but vultures, maybe, would find the meat in the sweetness, and the chickens wouldn’t be picky as they pecked. You can share with them.

And if death comes to interrupt the feasting, you hope it comes suddenly—mid-sentence—no ellipses…

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