About a Chaffinch


I was strolling barefoot through the garden
Thinking about what to write to you this week
When I came upon a fallen chaffinch,
Under a withered rosebush.
Had I not been minding my toes through the grass,
I would have not seen it.
Such are most men – tall enough not to look down as they go.
I searched with my eyes for the cat, saw it not.
Its wings did not stir, its beak twitched a little.
I picked it up and held it gently.
Once, I found a fallen pigeon on the pavement.
Not being the sort of boy who has a birdcage
I committed it to grandmother’s care:
She’s the wisest in the family when it comes to dying birds.
She put it some place or other, said would find a worm.
The next day the pigeon was gone.
Maybe the cat ate it, maybe it took wing.
We found no feathers.
Now I wished I was the sort of boy who has a birdcage.
Put the chaffinch in, throw in some food, wish it well.
But I have no birdcage.
I could put the chaffinch high up someplace, I thought.
But the cats would see it.
I could take it in, but it might die of fright.
I put it down again, hid it among some leaves.
Let nature run its course, I thought:
One thing you can do when you don’t know what to do.
Still, I went to ask grandmother –
The wisest in the family when it comes to dying birds.
“The cat’s cradle-cage?” she said.
“Big enough for the cat, small enough for the bird.”
I took the cradle-cage to the bird.
The bird’s legs stuck out from the grass.
Its head drooped.
The bird was a breath lighter than before.
If only men would die like birds:
so swift, so quiet, and so light…
I fetched a spade for the chaffinch’s grave
I took the bird and filled with it the hole;
The earth covered it well.
This then is the chaffinch’s quiet pain.
This is its tombstone, too.
There is one chaffinch less in the world
The twilight seems to know it.

5 thoughts on “About a Chaffinch

  1. Of childhood and memory, long summers eve when growing up to be ” big” was the wish, of simple loss and make believe, of yesterday with tomorrow still to come – thank you for reminding me.

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