Poem: “The Nature of Forgiveness”

The Nature of Forgiveness

A bird came to my window last summer.
I fed it scraps from my leftover breakfast and gave it a bit of water.
The next day it was back.
So I started feeding it more, bigger meals, better treats.
Friendly, cheerful, a true songbird.
Eventually it allowed me to stroke its delicate head.
Each day it would visit me,
in my tumbledown home,
ignoring the disrepair and mess behind me.
And every day it would flutter on my windowsill
and allow me to give it morsels.
But every day it would fly away afterwards.
It was not a pet.
It was never mine to begin with.

The bird kept coming back,
dancing through the air in the chill of autumn,
creating eddies in the wind when winter arrived.
It pecked my hand once, drawing blood.
I figured I must have done something wrong.
The bird returned the next day,
and pretended nothing had happened,
accepting the pumpkin seeds I presented it with.
And so it continued.

As spring arrived, tentative and wandering,
I decided to follow the bird to its nest.
I trailed after its fluttering, haphazard flight through the trees
and watched it perch upon a low branch.
It was there that I watched it transform.
Feathers mangled, beak sharpened, talons elongating.
This was not a songbird.
This was a carrion bird.
Dangerous, wild, a trickster.
It noticed me watching, shocked and glassy-eyed,
and let out a shriek.
It unfurled its massive dark wings and launched itself off the tree,
its hooked claws cuffing my face as it flew away.
It didn’t return to my window.

Summer slowly crawled back around.
The bird stayed away.
It knew I had seen its disguise.
But what it didn’t know was that I didn’t care.
I would have kept feeding it.
It found a new house to visit instead;
softly and prettily warbling,
shaped as a songbird once again.
Eventually I stopped leaving out food for it.
I took away the bowl of water.
Strange that I would miss it.
Strange that I wouldn’t.

I believe it’s still alive,
out there,
when it’s alone.
A bird within a bird,
a creature within a creature.
And try as I might, I cannot forgive it yet.
Because once a month,
when the moon is heavy and full,
I scatter crumbs on my windowsill,
and will them to disappear.

– Written by Saratoga Schaefer, September 2018

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