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I place the yellow warbler on the big rock
at the head of the path
where it hugs the hillside down into the gulch.
She had hit the south window,
and unlike the thrush last summer
which righted itself, sat up, and later flew off,
she had died.
Holding a wild bird,
warm as an oat cake in your hands,
ties you to the living wild,
but the odd sweet smell of death,
of these small deaths,
comes from somewhere else.
And so, obeying an ancient voice,
I place her on the big rock
knowing she will be gone in the morning —
like the bones of the wood rat
that lay on the path for weeks
until I put them on the rock.
even the sun will eat the earth in time,
but what does a rock eat
if not quiet, unmoving things?
Is it the coyotes and the cats
and the scavenger birds at night,
the interns and understudies of decay?
while we’re sleeping,
the great mass of the earth itself
tidying up, absorbing itself,
too old for teeth.
Crows and ravens both,
they tell us about change.
A famous crow in Vancouver has gone missing;
his mate hops the fence expectantly,
and at the same time, here in the foothills
a young crow in distress
circles our house, calling plaintively.
She has lost something:
a parent or a plan, the usual pattern of things.
For the Druids, these black birds
stand between us and the other world.
For them, the raven is Bran, the healer,
though sometimes we heal into loss.
Sometimes we are missing from the old world,
sloughing it off with illness.
Hope and horror both
have their hands on that gate.
The black juvenile circles me
on my morning walk along the Hogback,
drawing a net around my lack of superstition.
She has something urgent to tell me
in what can be
the static doldrums of late summer,
in the season’s dangerous inactivity:
child-changer, she calls,
child, teacher of the man.