by Nighttrain Schickele
I saw a dead bird today, perfect. Not broken at all. It was on the trail, legs crooked upwards, its wings to its sides, perfect for a matchbox coffin.
I think it is because I was the first to find it, the first to not step on it, and to scoop it into my fingers, that I was chosen to find him.
It must have hit the cafeteria window above and died instantly. I picked up the bird as a passing group of students walked in silence. A girl said, “aw.”
I was the first to spot this bird, 11:30am, October 31st, 2015. I felt honored. Felt I was chosen to pick him up, to brush his feathers, gently, and to walk with him.
He fit in my palm. His tail wing was the color of sand being soaked in the ocean with little, white spots like shards of sand dollars. But that’s enough.
It was a dead bird, and it was not living when I moved its head with my thumbs so that it could look at me like a human, its eyes open.
I knew my father had passed fifteen years to this day, Halloween. I wanted to draw a connection to him and to this dead bird I was taking into the trees.
I placed him aside a thin tree trunk and covered his body, but not his face, with an orange leaf. There were gum wrappers and plastic bags hooked on twigs.
And I like to think that messages enjoy hiding within coincidences like these, as if I, out of anyone else that morning, was chosen to bury him.
But I’m just one of many, constantly making up excuses to see the ones I love through a dead bird. And now I feel sad about what I have written—
If I had been wiser, I would have buried the bird to bury the bird, and let old ashes lay where they’ve already been scattered, once.