Why I Tried to Save the Bird, Which I Think Now Was a Grackle

by Tracy Youngblom

Because the bird hopped; because I wouldn’t have seen it,
ragged dust muff, if it hadn’t.

Because the grackle was his hometown’s mascot.

Because I was young enough to hate all thought of death.

Because the flannel shirt in which I swaddled it
belonged to him;  I wanted the bird’s growing
warmth, something to give back.

Because I visited a bait shop; they said
to spoon it raw egg, tiny pieces of worm
I sliced in our kitchen.

Because he laughed at me trying to revive it.

Because its mouth was a thin clamped membrane
that the spoon barely parted.

Because I refused doubt, refused
him who breathed it.

Because even after a week it wasn’t fine; I hung
over it at night like an angel.

Because it was summer, the heat the sky offered
never enough, all those birds fanning the air.

Because after a while, he ignored it.

Because I claimed the domain of life.

Because I wept alone at the spectacle:  keeled
back on its wing tips, rasping for breath.

Because the grackle will steal anything from anyone
to survive.

Because he said killing it would be merciful.

Because death is a kind of salvation.

Because I couldn’t.

Because he might.

Because my imagination fanned those shards
of hope into a passion.

Because when Chico beat his girlfriend and we heard her yell
through the adjoining wall, he wouldn’t call for help.

Because death is a kind of life.

Because giving up is a kind of death.

Because I did; because I had to.

Because I think now I failed.

Because failure is its own kind of grief.

Because there was a flurry of birds all that summer
around our steamy and unsettled house.

About Tracy Youngblom

Tracy Youngblom’s first chapbook of poems, Driving to Heaven, was published in 2010 by Parallel Press. She has published poems in many journals, including Shenandoah, North Stone Review, Briar Cliff Review, Poetry East, Potomac Review, Kansas Quarterly, Ruminate, and Weave magazine. New work is forthcoming in New York Quarterly.  Tracy holds an MA in English and an MFA in
poetry from Warren Wilson College. She teaches English full time at a community college.