The Jackdaw

It was in passing that the sign
came into view beneath
a red-white-red flag informing that
this was the house he died in.
The custodian said there would be more
exhibits soon and He was a writer
before returning to the morning television
show playing in his room.
Leaves in the courtyard brushed against
a window, whispering
as secrets do
when wishing to be left alone.
Jackdaws never settled in America, too serious
perhaps in their demeanor, only
showing up as vagrants quickly
to disappear from where they can’t fit.
They delight in scraps
found in the snow they hop on as though
it were the frozen sea within us.
Each of them lives in its own
birdy world, staying alert
to whomever would enter and cause
a disturbance. It feels good
to sit quietly, waiting
for the first word to fly
through a window and land
on the nib of a pen. He wrote all the way
to the moon, handwritten miles
of a tightrope for imagination
until it reaches the ultimate all-illuminating
truth. Think of an office
as the moon, or the balcony that was
a lookout on the world in those
last days whose calm
was broken by a cough. It’s quiet
where the craters can be turned
into a barren space or
a romantic moment whatever the next
second brings when the machinery
inside a clock stops ticking and begins
the hammer blows of fate. Jackdaws
know the heart of winter
when the frail go walking through the park
and clouds hang low. So what
if it’s the true condition
of the world, they have a beak to force
the ice to break, they
find what no one else knows is available
to eat, and they have
a talent for turning
into mist whenever the state looks
too deeply into their eyes. Once upon
a phone call a lady born in Prague
told of her father meeting a jackdaw
in his usual café. Contrary to the opinion
that it was a bird with
an inky mind it displayed a cheerful
demeanor that made it easy
to understand how the window
must have felt in that final house
when it opened for the bird
to lift itself away
happy as light.

David Chorlton has lived in Phoenix since 1978. He grew up in England with watching soccer as a major part of life although he has managed to move on to other interests since then, including reading and writing poetry. Read other articles by David.