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 Review, Cleaver, 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).