“The Language of Birds” by Linda Strever, published in Poeming Pigeons: Poems about Birds, released April, 2015 by The Poetry Box.
The Language of Birds
~ for Lois
More than once I’ve asked for a sign.
I’ve asked mute air and sky how to find
you after you pass from this life.
Today a mourning dove crashes into
the window, sits stunned on the deck —
her soft body, her whispers of color —
and I get it now, watching her recover,
watching her sweet head, her shining eye.
She lifts to the feeder, coos, and another
dove flies in, struts and bobs on orange feet.
They feed together quietly, dip into
the birdbath undisturbed, as if to offer
ease on this day, the last one before
you’ll begin your leaving. Tomorrow
you plan to stop exactly what the doves do
now — eating and drinking — so you can slip
the rest of the way out. Yes, you’ll come
to me in birds, and I realize I’ve known it
since last summer, just after you were
diagnosed. Startled by a thud, I went outside
to find the blown-glass garden ball lying
on the deck, whole, an opalescent mirror
for the sun. Two ravens circled low over
my head, and I had to smile at the brightness
they’d tried to steal. Yesterday in the woods
I laid my palm against a cedar tree. Two
band-tails burst from its branches, and I
glimpsed the white curve of their rising.