Five Birds – a poem by Heather Bourbeau

Five Birds
 
in silence, I walked
from farm to shore, 
through eucalyptus and chaparral, 
and stopped—briefly—
the chaos of my mind
 
in wooden temple, 
thick with incense, 
I listened to a monk, 
not much older than I, 
speak of compassion, 
and for all sentient beings
a freedom from suffering
 
now, in the not quite sunset
the heat, 
and with it—
my clarity—
descend west, 
down my back
as I drive home, 
cross the Richmond bridge
 
grey metal triangles
faded blue water
and jagged edged earth.
small islands dot the bay, 
beckoning birds and sailors
with false promises of
respite or refuge
 
every few yards—
the rhythm 
of one long breath—
a bird dead 
lies north of all lanes.
the speed of each flight,
the shock of each impact
evident in blood and splay
 
I feel shame 
for their slow extinction
unnoticed.
 
Counting corpses—
three, four, five—
I wonder,
who collects the bodies and
tallies their numbers?
who gives dignity to the lives lost?
 
and who will grant us ours
when we smash ourselves unwittingly
against the gates of progress?
 

Heather Bourbeau’s fiction and poetry have been published in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly ReviewCleaver, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and The Stockholm Review of Literature. She is the winner of La Piccioletta Barca’s inaugural competition and the Chapman University Flash Fiction winner. She is finishing her latest collection, Monarch, a poetic memoir of overlooked histories from her American West (CA, NV, OR, and WA).

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