Kiskadee


My wife fetched me to come quickly but to leave the girls behind(my Labradors) She pointed timidly at a bird on my driveway as it lay still in evident distress. A beautiful Great Kiskadee Flycatcher with its bandit mask and saffron yellow breast. I knew this bird. I had observed him many times perched upon the birdbath in my backyard.

I picked him up easily which saddened me, knowing that he was truly injured. He offered no resistance to my touch, blood wet my hand and I ​​knew this beautiful thing was to expire. I could detect no external injuries but there was blood coming out of his rectum. Perhaps something it had eaten, perhaps a poisonous tidbit or possibly being struck by a passing car. I could feel its pounding heartbeat pulsating in my hand, I presumed them to be its last. I peered deep into its eye, that dark orb, I could see light reflected there. What was I seeing? Resignation, surrender, acceptance of its plight, its fate, a placid calmness, its life ebbing.

I placed it upon some cardboard and placed a plastic basket over it to save it from a cat or the fire ants. Experience told me I couldn't save it, was it mercy I felt? I was saddened though not horribly so. I am old enough to have experienced a lot of death and being a hunter had often been responsible for it.

I returned later to find it cold and still, my heart ached a little and I felt sorrow for so beautiful a thing, a life. But it is the way of the Earth, dying is just as important as being born. How much of a life had it known? It looked to be young and perhaps not very experienced to have met such an untimely fate. What had it seen since it had first hatched and was fed by doting parents? I hoped it had seen enough to enjoy the thrill of living, of exhilarating flight, to have soared.

I placed it in the garbage can without much ado. I busied myself with some cooking but its memory pulled at my heart string. I retrieved it from the garbage can and wrapped it in some paper to serve as its shroud, which seemed right. I dithered as to whether place it in a tree like the Native Americans or bury it. I chose the latter being I felt it wouldn't be disturbed.

I dug a small hole in my flowerbed and placed it gently there. I did not pray for it nor did I grieve. I only acknowledged that which was beautiful and had lived and breathed. It had feasted my eyes so many times when I had observed it perched upon my bird bath. Perhaps there is another nearby that will visit my yard and delight me with its radiant plumage and bandit eyes and squawk to attract my attention as if to say "Hey You! Once more into the fray"

Thou Great Kiskadee

With thou epee beak of horn

Who fences with thy repast

Upon my rocky Boerne

Thou who sits aloof

Like some bird of prey

Squawking in arrogance

“Once more into the fray”

Alas! Thou now lay still

Upon thy funeral pyre

Clothed in royal raiment

Awaiting the eternal fire

With homage I intern thee

Alas! With sorrowful heart

My wish is to see thee

Once more upon my hearth