Finch Ascending, to the Abode of God

Finch Ascending, to the Abode of God

I was driving toward my house, signaling to turn into the driveway. The car windows were down. As I waited for an oncoming car to pass, two birds engaged in air combat crashed into my car, one flying off, the other flying through the window, hitting me in the chest, bouncing off the rearview mirror, and landing in my lap.

I made the turn and parked. In my lap was a female house finch. I picked up the tiny bird with her speckled breast, and cradled her in my right hand, and I stroked her with my trembling left index finger, her eyes meeting my eyes, until her eyes slightly rolled and closed, until she saw what the dead see. I cried.

I carried her to a limestone slab in my front yard and lay her on the cool surface dotted with 300,000,000-year-old fossils. On the telephone wire stretched across the yard, a line of finches perched and . . . watched? Was it my imagination, my anthropomorphism gone amuck, or my poet’s brush? Was I the sole the soul mourner?

Even if we and the birds were equals, the outcome is the same, the interpretation a work of science or a muse by Samuel Beckett. Or consider the poet Wendell Berry: “I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief… For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

There is no poem by a bird but there is a song.

All well and good, even comforting. But I held the bird in my hand, and I stroked her, her soft dotted belly, the tiny curled claws, the wings surrendered and folded like linens in a closet, our eyes meeting like fallen leaves meet Earth, and I felt her heartbeat wane and end, a grace note in the imagining of life.

I comforted her. Or: I comforted myself.

The Theory of Mind: “Human brains are tuned to try to understand other human’s intentions, thoughts and feelings. Specific regions of the brain contain populations of ‘mirror’ neurons . . . Unsurprisingly, these are the same regions of the brain that are active when a person is anthropomorphizing.” Emory University science website

The Theory of Mind, evolution, parallel universes, all the conjectures, the dark corridors in dreams, leading to oblivion, and nothing that happened happened. Nothing that did not happen did not happen. The meaning of a finch is wonder and song and color; the meaning of a finch is fiction.

For three days, the finch lay in state on the limestone slab. The ants and the flies were the first to the visitation and the feast. On the third night, she vanished. And rose to the Abode of God Which is Nothingness. On the limestone, a slight scuff mark of a decaying body leading to the edge, dragged by an anonymous undertaker.

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