featured image by Maggie Chirdo
* * *
The Five Songbirds of Grief
Canaries in coal mines
alerted toiling miners
to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
I once and readily assumed
the sweet yellow songbird did so
through its song.
Three chirps!!! Four lengthy trills!!!!
Time to flee!
But like the beautiful dead girls on TV,
canaries can only drop dead to send their message.
That owl they plucked from the Rockefeller tree,
angry, bewilderingly angry.
How it glared, demanding:
Why take me down?
To send me back?
Don’t you see how tightly I clung
to these thin branches of hope,
to this hacked down dead spruce?
I came away from a quiet life,
I came to the bustling streets,
but now I’m being
Glinting coin – fealty
Broken beer bottle – retribution
Pretty pebble – adoration
Crow’s feet – the gift of age
“Eat crow” – a warning
Every alluring thing is a bargaining chip
to the crow.
Even a chip,
retrieved from the trash,
is a trade-off.
Crows prefer food first and foremost (and tools!),
but will collect numerous useless treasures
for the desperate human.
Our funeral directors,
morticians, crematorium workers,
are considered last responders.
Never given even the empty appreciation
we shout and clap at first responders.
Is the vulture their patron-saint?
The animal kingdom’s clean-up crew,
gnawing diligently at decay,
and waiting patiently in the tree-tops
to carry us on.
The miners grew very attached to the canaries.
The miners were distraught when
electronics replaced their little finches.
I should’ve known.
The working class always cares
for much more than self-preservation.
Rejoice! Not all the canaries stayed dead!
The Siebe family — tinkers and instrument makers the lot of them —
built canary resuscitators.
Aluminum bird cages,
miniature oxygen tanks attached.
Bespoke second chances — successful Orpheuses
returning winged Eurydices.
* * *
Maggie Chirdo is a writer, poet, and graphic designer based in New York and Texas. She writes about American history, LGBTQ communities, pop culture, books, and whatever else keeps her up at night. Her work has been published in The Interlude, Bitch, Texas Observer, History Beyond, and The Knockturnal.