Natasha Trethewey

Bird in the House

A gift, you said, when we found it.
         And because my mother was dead,

I thought the cat had left it for me. The bird
         was black as omen, like a single crow

meaning sorrow. It was the year
         you’d remarried, summer—

the fields high and the pond reflecting
         everything: the willow, the small dock,

the crow overhead that—doubled—
         should have been an omen for joy.

Forgive me, Father, that I brought to that house
         my grief. You will not recall telling me

you could not understand my loss, not until
         your own mother died. Each night I’d wake

from a dream, my heart battering my rib cage—
         a trapped, wild bird. I did not know then

the cat had brought in a second grief: what was it
         but animal knowledge? Forgive me

that I searched for meaning in everything
         you did, that I watched you bury the bird

in the backyard—your back to me; I saw you
         flatten the mound, erasing it into the dirt.