The Revelation of the Chickadee
by Ruth Towne
Recall the Seneca Legend that describes how the Chickadee conquered death. He flew into a cadaver’s mouth, down his throat, and into his stomach to vomit the mixture—bits of flesh he and other birds had plucked from their own bodies. Once he emerged, he joined starlings and sparrows to anoint the dead with song. For two days and nights, they carried their melody until the man began to warm. When he woke to birdsong, they told him, Burn tobacco to renew this medicine when you are weak. Burn tobacco as a song to us. Burn tobacco and remember us. Recall how the Chickadee forfeited his flesh. Recall how the Chickadee swallowed up death.
Hear the polite Chick a dee dee dee, by way of introduction. In this moment, the Chickadee perceives no threat. In other moments, the complex ballad floats through the forest in even iambs or laments that limp toward winter in single note songs. And other times, parent Chickadees hum lullabies softly to their young. If you can, hear how the Chickadee veils his voice at times. If you can, understand his parables.
Remember that the Cherokee revere the Chickadee. Remember that the Cherokee say that as warriors fought a sorceress, a Chickadee alighted where her slender fingers joined palm of her right hand. Remember that the Chickadee showed them that her heart was inside the same hand she jabbed toward them. Remember that they called the Chickadee a truth-teller and that by this truth he set them free.
Consider the Chickadee, how he imitates coyote calls in the winter, how he locates their clans. Consider how he scavenges the exposed fat of fresh kills. Consider that to survive the winter, they scavenge the exposed fat of fresh kills. Consider the Chickadee above this corpse, his own black crown adorned with crimson, tempered by wintered seasons of war.
About Ruth Towne
Ruth Towne is an emerging author from Southern Maine. Recently, The Magnolia Review featured her nonfiction piece “Nine Months of Conflict Taught Me How To Say ‘No’” and Foliate Oak published three of her poems, “Perkins Cove Port, Ogunquit,” “The Red Paint Grave,” and “Nor’easter.” She spends her spare time helping high school and college students improve their writing, and she also enjoys hiking and running in New England with Gunner, her German Shepherd.