A man I once loved keeps leather gloves
in his truck for moving dead animals
off the road. No human energy deters him.
I think of him when I see the body of a female
catbird on Reno Road near the corner of 39th,
riding my bicycle home from work.
The bird’s wing is sticking up, still attached.
As cars speed by, the wing flutters, the way
my bike shudders, or is it my heart,
when a truck or bus passes too close?
The bird’s dry body is mashed, its beak open.
The feet clutch empty space, as if
remembering their perch. The gray feathers
blend in with the hot, July pavement.
I count and recount the wing feathers, eight.
Three days ago a woman, twenty-two,
biking to work near Dupont Circle,
was hit, dragged, killed by a garbage truck.
My old lover would have buried the bird,
dug a grave, hummed over her bones. I like that
about him, the way he attends to the fallen, but
I leave her there as she is— a creature
who once sang, once flew, her sail raised.
That night I dream I pick up a wounded fledgling,
and shroud her in a white cloth. I climb on my bike
and leave the known world. Our mouths open.
Noisier than catbirds, we head into a wind, singing.