Adagio for a Fallen Sparrow

In the bleak midwinter
frosty wind made moan
earth was hard as iron
water like a stone

Sparrows burning
bright bright bright against the wind
resemble this item, this frozen
lump on the floor of my garage, as fire
resembles ash:
not much.
A body to dispose of,
probably one I’ve fed all winter, now
a sort of weightless fact,
an effortless repudiation of the whole shebang.
I’d like to toss it in the garbage can but can’t let go
so easily. I’d bury it
but ground is steel
and hard to find. Cremation?
Much too big a deal, too rich and bardic
too much like an ode. Why not simply splurge
and get it stuffed, perch it proudly on the shelf
with Keats and Shelley and The Birds of Canada?

But when at last
I bury it beneath three feet of snow
there is nothing to be said.
It’s very cold.
The air
has turned its edge
against us.
My bones
are an antenna picking up
arthritis, wordless keening of the dead.

So, sparrow, before drifting snow
reclaims this place for placelessness, I mark your grave
with four sticks broken from the walnut tree:

one for your fierce heart

one for your bright eye

one for the shit you shat upon my windshield
while exercising squatters’ rights in my garage

and one to tell the turkey vultures where your thawing body lies
when they return next spring to gather you
into the circling ferment of themselves.

And my last wish: that they do
before the cat discovers you and eats you, throwing up,
as usual, beside the wicker basket in the upstairs hall.

Don McKay, from “Field Marks: the Poetry of Don McKay”

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