beak open, head thrown back–
warning predators away from eggs
or downy chicks hidden beneath a yellow wing.
The sweet warbling is a spill of notes
on the evening air
aimed at the departing sun,
the stalking cat,
the blackbird with its beady eye and sharp bill
waiting for the moment when the cursing stops
and it moves in for the kill.
But this is no bird, though bird like,
wispy white hair like feathery down
fluffed out from the skull-shaped head,
blue hollows for temples,
a beaked nose over the clacking jaw.
Her bones are not hollow,
yet seem delicately so, as though the wrong pressure
would cause them to snap and splinter
and no wings sprout from those angular shoulders,
but arms covered by the nightgown’s white sleeves
hiding purple bruises of blood
that pools unbidden beneath the surface
of her parchment skin.
She curses at the nurses
who pump her full of pills;
at the physiotherapis
who exercise her swollen joints;
at the waiters
who bring her food she cannot chew.
She curses at God for not letting her die,
and she curses me because she can.
And all the while Death,
like a crested blackbird,
waits for the cursing to cease,
the jaws to relax, eyelids to close,
the breathing to slow
so he can move in for the kill
and stop the song forever.