Dead Bird

I find the dead bird on the porch under the picture window.  It is the first really warm day of the year and the birds are celebrating.  Apparently, this one didn’t get the memo about not flying into windows.  I go to get the shovel. 

The kids are playing baseball with my husband. My youngest child is on my heels wanting to know what I’m doing.  I tell her I’m going to dig a hole to bury the dead bird. 

“What dead bird?” she asks. 

“The one on the porch.”

“The porch?  What porch?”

“The front porch.”

“Oh, the front porch.  Where is the front porch?”

“You know.  The one in the front of the house.  The one that faces the street.”

“Oh.  That porch.”

She watches me dig a hole. 

“Why are you doing that?”

“That’s where we are going to bury the dead bird.”

“Why bury the dead bird?”

“So that it can change back into soil.”

“What’s soil?”

“This.  The dirt.  Everything that dies turns back into soil.”



“And then a tree will grow?”


“Why maybe?  Why not yes or no?”

“Because maybe something else will grow.  Like a flower.”

“The bird is going to turn into a flower?”

“Sort of.  Yes.  That’s a nice way to think about it.”
I don’t dig a very deep hole.  But I’m already tired.  It will be deep enough.  It’s a small bird. 

I get a stick and roll the bird onto the spade.  It rolls as if it’s alive and my heart jumps.  I look again.  Definitely dead.  I carry it half-way down the drive before I decide I’d like to draw it first.  I carry the shovel back to the porch. 

“Where are you going?”  My daughter is still following me.

“I’m going to get a paper and pen.  I want to draw the bird before we bury it.”

“Can I draw it too?”

“Yes.  Get your clipboard.”
The bird’s eye is perfectly black.  Its feathers are so fine, I could draw for a lifetime and never be able to capture every detail.  Its feet are curled like crippled hands.  The claws are surprisingly long and fine, a perfect instrument for gripping bark.  I roll the bird over for another look.  On this side, the eye is squeezed shut, part of the beak broken into a disconcerting angle. 

We carry the bird to the backyard together.  We tilt the shovel and it slides into the hole.  Its death is more evident, now that we are done with it, this body lying in a hole.  I pause.  “Ready?” I ask.  “Should we bury it now?”

My daughter doesn’t say a thing.  She stands very still staring at the bird.  I scrap the dirt back into the hole and the dirt covers the bird and then it’s gone.  My daughter starts to sob.  I pick her up and hug her.  “I want the birdie to fly away,” she cries, her face wet, her eyes red with mourning.

Today, my youngest sits in my lap watching me type.  “That’s my name!”  I tell her I’m writing the story about the dead bird.

“What dead bird?”

“The one we buried yesterday.”

“Oh yeah.  Did you write the part about the crying?”

“Not yet.”

“Oh.  I love the part about the crying.”


  1. Condolences to Rosie. Great story.

  2. I agree. Love this story and the illustrations. The blog format, scrolling down the page and such, was perfect.

  3. Too bad we don't get to share these stories first hand anymore. Missing all the alley society. Thanks for reading! And happy leaf pile jumping.

  4. This youngest child of yours, who probably seldom stops for a minute because she is so busy exploring life, stopped in her tracks and contemplated death. She had a good cry too. Lucky little girl to have a mother who listens so well, answers her questions so thoughtfully, and then writes a lovely story for her.