Cleaning up the yard
After a lukewarm winter,
I took down the birdhouse
I bought at Target and
Painted a hopeful red
In a tribute to the spunk
Of my nephew Josh
Who, while assembling
A birdhouse in Sunday School
Dutifully sanded, nailed and painted it
A bright red and then
Wrote on the roof,
“I hate birds.”
When asked why
He had done this,
He replied, “Because I do.”
And he did and had for a long time.
No one had asked him his opinion
On birds before, so I suppose, so
It was just waiting to come out
All those years.
He was true to his beliefs,
And so I painted these words
On the roof of my birdhouse:
Josh’s Place, and thought it a
I took off the roof to
Clean out last year’s nest
Where three baby wrens
Stretched their necks for food.
When they had grown enough
They flew away. That’s the way of birds
And other creatures. They were gone,
Or so I thought.
As I took out the dry grass and
Small twig remnant of what had
Been the birds’ home,
I saw in a corner what looked like
Small thin white stones.
I stroked one, and its consistency
Told me that it wasn’t
A stone, but the bones of one of
The fledglings who had not
Flown off into this world.
I put the bones back in their corner
And thought of burials
Over the ages, of pyramids
And cave tombs with rocks to seal
The entrance, of peat bog burials
And cremation on the Ganges
And burial at sea and grand mausoleums
Of ashes rocketed into space
And the remains of three cats
Buried in the flower bed
In our back yard right below
The limb where the bird house hung.
And so, taking the shovel I was using
To break up the soil, I placed
The tiny remains in a toothpick box
And buried them at the end of
My shasta patch, saying a silent
Prayer for all living things as I
Tamped the earth down.
Future generations of wrens
Will fly above their brother’s head
With wings made of feathers
While he flies somewhere beyond the
Horizon with wings of
March 25, 2016
One response to “Ossuary”
I adore this poem, Dan. I will not forget the “wings of fire” line. It will stick in my head. It is beautiful. Thanks for writing with such insight, as always.