Small Creatures — A Dream

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“Owl” — C.Birde, 8/17

 

Singly and in pairs, they arrive — men and women, dressed in jewel-toned satin and velvet gowns, in embroidered cravats and dark silk tuxedos. They sweep into the ancient, compact castle — more of a turret, in truth, or a fortress. Clustered in small knots about a great length of dining room table, they bloom against the bare, gray stone floor and walls. Soft conversation flickers with candlelight.

But their arrival is earlier than expected. Unprepared, shake each proffered hand. Kiss signet rings, the backs of smooth wrists. Return each smile, each warm greeting. Hear not one comment, nor one remark regarding disheveled hair, tattered clothing, unwashed odor. Surely, they notice. Kindness stills their tongues; propriety.

At last, the number of arrivals diminishes, ceases. Slip away. Slowly, back towards the small door, that ellipse of wood within stone. Quietly, quietly — ease the door open. Steal through the narrow fissure to enter a small, round stone chamber. Softly, pull the door shut. Lean against it.

Spread across the chamber’s floor — rumpled and crumpled and imbued with blue shadows — is a great sweep of strewn white cloth. To the left of the closed door, a stone staircase sweeps upward, follows the tight curve of the turret’s exterior wall. Set foot on the bottommost step. Notice the white cloth shiver and move. A kitten – small, gray-and-white, with the short stand-up tail of the newly born — wriggles out from the fabric’s folds. Mewing, comically determined, it follows along behind, up the steps.

Climb. Five steps. Six. Seven. With the kitten directly behind. See, at eye-level on the steps ahead, a frantic blur of yellow motion. A fledgling canary with curiously long feathers. Scoop the bird up – out of the kitten’s reach. Feel the brush of soft feathers, the tick of small talons against skin. Watch the canary lift up, flutter out and away. Its extraordinarily long wing- and tail-feathers flow like ribbons of sunlight. Over the kitten. Down the steps. To safety.

Continue climbing. Arrive at another small, wooden door. Push. Beyond it, find a circular room with high-vaulted ceiling. White porcelain sink and toilet and bathtub gleam against gray stone walls and floor. A single window stares out into darkness. Across the room, a narrow, arched doorless exit leads down a corridor… Cross the room. Step into that arch of stone-darkened throat. Set hands on a small gate, draw it out from the wall — a makeshift barrier that will lend privacy to the bath.

Again, movement. There, further down the corridor, emerging from the dark — a tall, trim man. Dressed in soft brown tweeds. A bulge beneath his jacket and vest. Approach carefully, step toward him. Peer — curious, eyes squinting — at the lump caught gently, safely against his breast, buttoned up beneath the tweed vest. See a small, smooth-feathered crown; wide gold eyes within a heart-shaped face — a barn owl.

Listen as the man explains: Out on the darkened lawn, far below the castle, five shapes lay motionless as shadow. Each a barn owl — four young, one adult. All but he had passed by, oblivious. None but he had taken note, gone to investigate. Had found one young owl alive amongst the five.

From the deep vee opening of the man’s vest, see the barn owl blink. Smitten, reach out. Stroke the smooth, white-feathered head. Feel the sharp clench and wrench of heart.

 

— C.Birde, 8/17

 

Equivalencies — A Poem

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“Eastern Chipmunk” — C.Birde, 6/17

 

If you have one chipmunk,

you have three;

If you have three chipmunks,

you have fifteen;

If you have fifteen,

they will call the day’s news,

in rapid fire staccato,

from the garden bench;

and beneath the old miniature rose;

and from the corner behind the garage

by the rain barrels.

Most likely,

they will excavate

a complex system of tunnels

beneath the side steps

to the converted back porch,

and divert

the flow of fallen rain that

— recently, mysteriously —

began weeping through

the house’s north facing

hundred-plus-year-old

basement wall.

They will expect peanuts,

and will make their requests

from under the lavender hedge;

and beneath the curled, green ferns;

and from all corners

of the house and yard and garden.

Keep a number of nuts tucked

in your pockets at all times,

though this will not prevent them

from heedlessly running

over your bare feet and toes

when you open the door

and stand on the side steps

with that offering.

If you see one chipmunk,

you may see three;

If you see three chipmunks,

you may well see fifteen;

And if you see fifteen,

you had best have your

inter-species agreements

quickly drawn up and notarized,

for the benefit of all,

by a neutral third party.

(The Nuthatch, perhaps.)

— C.Birde, 7/17

Hunger — A Dream

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“Hunger” — C.Birde, 4/17

 

It stands, hoofs-deep, in a field of mud. A young black and white pig. Its hide stretched too-tightly over its scrawny frame. It fixes me with a beady eye, and I’m not the least bit surprised when it addresses me – in clear, succinct English. After all, mere moments ago, this very same pig had been a gargantuan earthworm, plowing through the muddy field like a subterranean marlin.

“Are you going to feed me?” the pig demands vexedly. Its voice swells to fill the cavern, gets caught against the shadow-filled ceiling overhead. Thick mud covers its large, flat snout, evidence that it has been rooting through the field in search of food.

But I’m not here to feed the pig – I didn’t even know there was a pig down here. I’ve come to feed the cats.

“Oh, of course. Can’t forget to feed the cats.” The pig hunches its bladed shoulders and snorts sarcastically. “Precious cats,” it mutters.

Skirting the edge of the furrowed and deeply rutted field, I edge toward a shabby green shack where the cat food is stored. The pig’s gaze follows me, his squinty stare vaguely unsettling. Uncertain how he’ll react, I offer to give him some of the cat food.

The pig grunts with indignation. “I suppose cat food is better than no food,” he remarks archly.

I ignore his tone, attribute his crankiness to hunger. After tossing several handfuls of cat food to him, I watch as, snout down in the mud, he devours every bit. Greedily, hungrily, completely.

Four Paws — A Poem

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“White Wood Aster” — C.Birde, 9/16

 

Four paws pause

on the mountain’s graveled flank —

she gathers news

from weed and shrub,

root and stone;

pulls me along.

No matter that I am

near senseless to all

she perceives –

I am content

to wait and contemplate

the weave of breeze

among branch and leaf

pressed to the breast

of gray-clad sky;

to gather for safe-keeping

the coruscating mantras

of crickets, birds and tree frogs

as wards against

future silence.

I am content

to admire those

steely wildflowers

that scatter fairy light

over the forest’s

parched floor

for as long

as I am permitted…

Until, urgently,

I am pulled

to move again —

rapidly and ever onward —

toward the next

newsworthy

site.

 

–C.Birde, 9/16

 

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

“Four Paws” — C.Birde, 9/16