Struck Birds by Catharine Lucas

San Gregorio State Beach, California

Tide-packed sands; cliffscapes, buff and russet. One bleached rock thrust skyward, its sharp-edged gleam startling a blue so deep it fights the gaze. Far above, two gulls flying squadron repeat the trick, finite white making infinite blue—advertising their importance to the universe. At my feet lies one of their own, wings spread in crucifix. A coil of ruby ribbon teased from the gut gleams on pristine breast. The scene is fresh, a surgery interrupted. Feast or sacrifice, the stuff of gospel. Meant.

Not so, death on tarmac. The overpass off 580 draws nesting pigeons, ash gray, unlit. They drop to graze the road. Some are crushed, standing, others struck in flight—windshield, grill, bumper. I stop beside a dark smear. It reads like poems I’ve seen, wall-to-wall blocks of text; the eye makes of these a single blur in passing.

I balk at reading them, these struck birds, glued where they fell, nothing to suggest intent. They evoke reportorial prose suited to accidents and allowing some possible fault in the pigeons. I borrow the tone, considering certain deaths that fail to startle, being dark on dark, as news goes.

Hard to convey the brightness lost.


about the author:

As a child in North Carolina, I wrote poems about winter sunsets, a lost dog, my first bike; now I write from the northern California coast, about offshore rocks, lovers lost and found, the hauntings of earthquake and drought that lie in wait through our year-round balmy season. This writer’s life is fed by friends, books, movies, plays, concerts. And by gardening, hiking, singing, watching things. Engaging in troubled times, I edit for a climate change activist, manage care for an indigent elder, and offer spiritual counsel for friends in crisis. My adult son blesses my life as a fellow seeker. I practice Buddhism at Berkeley Zen Center.