by Alice Christian

While driving today, I see another body.
My mind registers – a robin.
Something inside nudges me to turn
around. I cannot save this bird;

I can only rescue it from the indignity of being
crushed into gravel. Approaching, I fear
it will be stomach-turning, eyes pushed
out by being run over, guts worming.

I bend to pick it up, and a feeling comes over me –
I am holding in my hand a winged being:
black shiny eyes, sightless, ringed with white brush strokes;
long smooth yellow beak, parted, tinged blood-red;

minute whiskers sprouting below beak; speckled throat,
soft white down that sticks to my hand.
Stiff feathers: rust and charcoal,
like paint on weathered barns.

You, robin, common as hay-bales out in the field,
many times have I seen you, bobbling,
skidding in for a landing, cocking your head,
listening for worms, tugging at the earth.

Here now is quieted the liquid song at dawn, the chuckling
in spring emanating from new-leafed trees.
You were meant to perk through underbrush,
dash away in alarm, half-running, half-flying,

not to be buried under wet leaves, left for rain and sun.
I have to wipe my hands now, and put them on the wheel.