The first time he buries his dead pet bird,
The boy digs him up two nights later.
Think March in Tennessee. The calls
Of spring peepers. An AM rain.
Like a God, like a father, like a lover,
The boy had lorded over Bud, short for bud-
Gerigar, that house bird known for human speech
He and his father purchased
From the pet store between the Sir Pizza
And Goodwill just days before
To ward off his loneliness. The boy began
With the Webster’s Pocket, clearly enunciating
The day’s vocabulary, the particulars
Of each word’s pronunciation.
When that failed to rouse Bud to speech,
He read etymologies aloud from the skin-thin OED.
When still the bird did not speak,
The boy played audiobooks he borrowed
From the public library while he slept: A Tale
Of Two Cities. Stephen King’s IT. All’s Well
That Ends Well. Every night for a week
He read passages from the “Good Book”
His grandmother gifted him for turning
Twelve he otherwise only opened
For its illustrations of apostles and slaves,
The horned beasts and serpents
Entering the ark in mating pairs.
Finally, the boy told Bud stories he conjured
All his own, but if Bud ever spoke
It was in his own tongue—so loud
And clear and trilling through one
Particularly dark night, it woke
The boy from his dream, and, as if
He were still in the dream, he reached
Into the cage and closed his hands
Around Bud’s wings to recite the Ten
Commandments, and when he reopened
His hands, found Bud unmoving.
Twenty-five years later, ten years
of failed marriage later, the boy now a man
Nearly unhinged at thirty-seven
Will be awoken within a nightmare
Of playing with the children he never made,
Of begging that girl he loved and married
To come home, please just come home.
He will tiptoe as the boy he once was
Through the eyes of the man he has become
In the way things can only be in dreams
Past his parent’s bedroom, down the hall,
And out the front door to his mother’s garden
Where he and his father laid Bud to rest.
The man-child will kneel before the white cross
Of two orangsicle sticks and a twist tie.
He will reach into the rain-wet soil to lift
From the earth the Dollar General
Tupperware in which he placed Bud’s
Boy-broken body. He will crack open the lid
Of Bud’s plastic coffin and will begin with
Strange motions of his hands like wings.
Then he’ll click his tongue, will whistle through
Clenched teeth. Does he believe he can match
The whines and coos of a bird
No longer breathing? Does this man
Believe that if he calls his ex-wife,
She will answer? How to make
A dead dream flare back to life?
Why else come here in person or nightmare?
Why else cup the ones we have loved
And lost so sweetly in our hands?
Photo by preston.rhea, used and adapted under CC.