Birdsong

Rahab Ali


Part One: The Song

You were the Kea that

fell into my lap, like an idea—

unwanted and rejected.

You slipped from the arms of

the oak tree that couldn’t shelter you.

If it weren’t for the fact that your

small, gray body was warm against mine,

I would have tossed your limbs like

sun-dried twigs—like a broken branch,

away from the trunk of the tree

that nestled the both of us.

I dusted you off and held your

elephant skin in my hands

like a prayer

lying heavy on my palms.

Your toothpick feet couldn’t hold you up

as you tried to stand, to look into my eyes,

the one who was willing to polish the face

of a stranger. And your marble eyes

glistened with tears as your hooked beak

parted to release a cry worthy of your face.

I kept you.

I cherished your glittering eyes

more than starry nights. I whispered prayers

into your ears, letting you practice our songs

in your squalls. Our prayers blossomed

on your fluff-white feathers

and painted them green and orange.

I held you in my hands once more, this time

like a wish come true, and pushed you into

the sky, into the world that was

finally worthy of hearing your song.

 

Part Two: The Flight

The leaves quiver in the breeze,

like your wings once did, as I climb

this tree, grasping its fingers tight,

clinging to them as I once clung to you.

Gray clouds drizzle in the summer heat

and a gentle plinking lingers on the surface

of the river breathing static below.

 

I remember you as the baby bird,

the puddle of elephant skin

that fell from this oak and into my lap.

You gave me the faith I needed

to move past what is. You were

the mirror I held in my palms and

gazed at to see that anything is possible.

 

My prayers became ours before I

had to return you to nature, before you

spread your wings to take flight.

Because I wanted you to remember me.

I wanted you to come back to me

and share the songs of the world

as I had shared mine with you.

 

Swaying up high with the hand that I

hold tight, the cloudy mist thickens

into drops that dance against the river.

I look out into the horizon, peering through

the cluster of green wing-leaves flapping

in the gust, and hope that somewhere

you are thinking of me.

 

Part Three: The Farewell

That stormy day you came back,

you tumbled from the tree like an angel

fallen from grace. Heavy, your vibrant colors

were dark from the spatter of rain.

I held you in my hands like a prayer

I’d forgotten to say. Clenching you between

my palms, seeping warmth, hoping you could

sense how much I didn’t want to let you go.

 

Your dark, spheric eyes melted

stardust I tried to rub away,

your beak pinched at my fingers,

cool tongue clicking against them

in affection. It was a last farewell to me,

the one who was lucky enough to

polish the face of a stranger,

the one fortunate enough to experience

an unconditional love.

 

Your shivering squalls ceased within

my arms and, instead of concealing you

within the damp earth like a secret,

the scent of dirt and lilies licking at the air,

I placed you on a cradle of leaves

like hands, in a hollow branch,

and sent you on your way

down, down, down the Black River.