The jay was beautiful once, in his feathered garb of regal blue,
but now he’s only dead, gone the way of all flesh and fowl,
and though I’m not the assassin–the cat has brought him in,
as nature-programmed hunters do–yet still I feel the guilt
for this handsome creature unjustly slain. So runs the elegy
I’m composing in my head as I pick up a couple of feathers
dropped, and the cat, having grown bored with the game,
leaves the scene.
But then I realize the bird remains alive,
perched on the kitchen curtain-rod, first thinking he’s badly hurt,
de-winged, unable to flay and stuck in purgatory,
but when I approach, he takes flight, heading every which way
but out; with doors and windows open wide, the bird flies
into the wall, and I marvel at the lack of brains that
often accompanies unearned beauty.
I cannot catch him,
or shoot him, or guide him; the attempt goes on for hours,
until, like Poe’s raven or the mariner’s albatross, his presence
dooms me to the memory of regret. Having provoked me
into agitation, he settles and grows quiet, spends the night
on his perch, head tucked under wing, in the way of birds,
as I toss in troubled dream state, and not until the next
midmorning, when the cat’s interest returns, does my
blue-winged demon depart with a raucous squawk
by the obvious escape right previously unseen.
a story to tell his avian cronies of his traumatic, near-death
experience, and I’ll be haunted by his image, with half-open
beak and the same stupid, black-eyed terror that I
sometimes feel myself.
T. Allen Culpepper