It was by our old garage door
beneath a spot long favored by birds
to build nests of mud and string.
The neighbor’s cat had not yet found it,
though by dusk its deathbed would be
merely flattened grass and a tuft of down.
Perhaps I had seen this one
the day before, its head turned skyward,
beak gaping in a torment of appetency.
It was a juvenile—
not long expired, I knew,
one black eye neither open nor closed,
but stilled in that way
the dead gaze without seeing.
Its plumage was nearly complete:
the tell-tale russet breast,
the mottled gray.
So near to taking its perilous leap—
one unforgiving day, or maybe two,
had been the space between
flight and fall.
This was a lovely work of feather and flesh,
an inchoate beauty,
its pinions and bristles nearly made.
I nudged it with my boot
and glimpsed beneath the wing
a naked leg and trident foot—
all reptile scale and claw.
Chastened, I let the thing roll back
upon itself, wing upon leg,
to await the coming
of the marauding cat.