It had no nest and no parents we could see nearby.
It was small and fast.
My children were there and of course, we caught it.
We mashed up cat food and fed it through a straw.
My oldest daughter named it, so it was ours,
if only for a day. I forget what she named it.
They held it like it would fly away
if they let it go, and it chirped
because it knew it couldn’t.
Tomorrow they get up early
to see it and it’s dying, I can see that
but they think it’s sleeping. Google says
that mobile baby birds are meant to be bouncing around,
getting help from parents only when needed,
so that they learn to feed themselves.
We fed it, and that’s why it’s dying.
I tell them we have to let it go,
and my daughter cries when I carry it out
on the broad blade of the shovel to the
back acre and leave it on a pile of leaves.
I tell her not to follow me, but she does.
I stand there willing it to hop away, but it won’t.
My heart is in my hand as we walk back birdless,
and I give it to her to hold so that she knows
I understand and won’t ever understand.
We cry a little at the loss and she grows a little more
in the way I wish she wouldn’t.
If I could change one thing in the
world we live in, it might be this:
not that birds die, or that my child knows it now,
for if I blinded her to each loss
she might never love birds at all;
but that it was by our hands,
holding helpful, feckless hearts.
Cover photo by kyryll ushakov.