A Gospel of Birds

by Sarah Russell

She wasn’t sure about heaven,
but she believed in birds.
On walks she’d stop to watch
a skein of geese, wondered
where they came from,
where they were heading.
They mate for life, she’d say.
Crows do too. And swans
and storks. She must have said that
a hundred times, with a kind of wonder
at the impossibility.

She kept five feeders on the deck,
had a book of backyard birds
to identify newcomers at the feast.
She cried when a neighbor’s cat
killed a mourning dove. They mate
for life too, she said. Listen,
her mate is sad. That’s just their call,
I told her. No, it’s different, she said.
You can tell when birds are sad.

She died a month ago.
I keep the feeders filled.

SARAH RUSSELL has returned to poetry after a career teaching, writing, and editing academic prose.  Her poems and short fiction have appeared in Kentucky Review, Red River Review, Misfit Magazine, Poetry Breakfast, Rusty Truck, and many other journals and anthologies.  She blogs at SarahRussellPoetry.net.

Photo: “BirdFeeder” by Karthik Sridharan