The Dead Bird Points the Way
by Lucia Iglessias
I open my eyes in a forest. Willows and aspens all around me—I stand amongst strangers. There is no path through the trees.
The dead bird points the way. I find him lying at my feet. Green as full-hearted buds he is, lusty May green. His talons clutch a spume of flowering Angelica, Valerian, Dogbane, and Pennyroyal—blossoms still cheeky with dew between his withered toes. With his corsage of wild spring he points me deeper into the forest. And deeper I go.
Quivering willows brush so close my sight greens and everything turns to leaves.
Shcrunsch—fracturing of skull, tiny bird skull, crunching beneath my heel. All the little pieces of bone rasp against each other as my foot reshapes the skull. He was dead already, this bird with the breast dappled grey like the creek bottom. A slither of yellow under the feathers, a tinge of ill. His beak tucked into plumed breast, almost as if only dozing. But that yellow.
Dead birds are strung out across the pathless dirt, bright beads in a necklace left just for me. Feathers vermeil and celandine, oxblood and ocher. Bird by bird I trace the necklace of tiny deaths. The last bead is a sapphire, a rock thrush.
The feathered swell of unbeating bird nests in Imogen’s hand.
She flings the thrush’s proud ribcage into the sky. With a whiffle of flailing blue, the thrush flies high and away. If I could retrace the carcass-necklace and fling each bird back to life—but dusk, that carrion-eater, has already swallowed them whole, gobbling the forest into darkness behind me.
Imogen takes my hand, cupping it between hers tenderly as if it were a dead bird.
Lucia Iglesias was raised by witches and winged things in the grove. She ran away to Brown University and now wanders through stories old and new, seeking a path back to that grove or perhaps another.