by Molly Lemke
One snowy March evening
I stumbled across a funeral.
In the clawed branches of a lilac tree
They waited, soberly dressed and silent;
The cocks wore ebony suits, dusky cravats,
The hens in obsidian dress and onyx pearls.
Some rubbed beaks on branches as breakable as bone,
To create the sound of trees weeping
or a thousand wings lifting skyward.
Loved ones waited to offer the deceased
Twigs of lilac, held in beaks
As though to furnish him a Heaven of flowers.
He died like this:
Sprawled at the base of the tree, beak open—
Tongue dry as gray leather,
Mites on exposed skin and feather,
One foot clasped around a final thought.
I stood and watched,
Until they lofted up as one;
Crisp and dignified, like scattered leaves.
I walked home under the streetlights,
Climbed in bed,
Kissed her forehead,
And lay awake the long night.
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