March 21, 1993

The Starling Vision

It was on my way home that I saw the crows,
grouped five in a circle, pecking a starling
to death. When I moved, they started
and flew, leaving the starling shuddering
and swiveling its empty sockets -- they always drive out the eyes
first. As I lifted the bird I had a vision of darkness
and fear like the refracted black of a crow’s wing
and I nearly dropped the small body back into the dust, but the shaking,
the starling’s terrible shaking brought me back and I carried it home
wrapped in my coat, small bloodstains spreading like ink.
At my house I laid it, swaddled, in a towel-lined box in the back bathroom
and closed the door to let it die in quiet, swallowed by its own
blackness. That night I thought I heard the bird’s wings
through the walls, flapping against the box,
trying to escape. Unable to sleep, confused by its movement,
I pressed the blankets to my ears and wished it dead. I envisioned
its drab, stifled body and weak feathers, until dawn when I awoke
suddenly to silence and found it still
wrapped, stiff and cold in the box, unmoved
since I had left it.

 © Jessica Minier Mabe