Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1: Dead blackbird

A friend tells me today how, walking on a beach in February, she and her husband came across a dead red-winged blackbird. The bird was untouched, a male, black with bright red and yellow feathers on its wings like epaulettes. He was heading north early, hoping to get to the best territory ahead of the others--but he seems to have made the journey a little too soon. He probably froze to death, dropping out of the sky from cold and exhaustion, one of the harsh statistics of migration. He may have flown all the way from South America before he landed on that beach in New Hampshire.

Some impulse made my friend want to keep the bird's body, rather than just tossing it back into the waves. So she brought it home, five hours away, and tucked it in her freezer between the peas and the shrimp. She doesn't know what to do with it now. She's not even legally supposed to have a blackbird in her freezer; the Migratory Bird Act prohibits owning even a single feather of a migratory bird, though most of us do. I think she wrote a poem about it. She might donate it to a nearby college's biology program. Or give it an elaborate burial.

No meal left for gulls,
the blackbird's body, preserved,
becomes a relic.

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