Poem with Dead Canaries and a Cardinal Inside

by Jordan Durham

That we might walk back into each other’s lives
and not feel the pull

of sickness dragging us to this reality
we already knew, that’s all

I truly wanted last spring. The spring before—
morning after morning

I walked the long stretch of near-perfect sidewalk and saw
only death—yellow in its no longer

cheeping world of baby birds, attempting to learn
how to fly and fumbling

from that kind of blistering height.
How the mama bird

must have felt seeing pieces of herself
landing with

the opposite of what she knew
air was supposed to give.

Myself mirrored in the blankness
of their still new, open eyes, and last week

it was the flames, my lungs
breathing in their noxiousness so I knew

the realities of engulfment in which I was
equal parts consuming and being consumed.

This tire fire. Its blackened roar reaching
great Midwestern heights. This is all to say reality is

one half destruction, the other half air combined
with love. That fire loving

tires down to their tread. What
would the sidewalk have done

without the last tiny bird breath escaping
to help it realize its inanimateness?

I’ll admit I wanted the quick approach to love
without air pulling me

forward into this new life. Of this, I am sure:
a cardinal has returned from its wintering

and beats its red being
full-bloomed over

each budded leaf. He knows everything
he needs to about this

new year—to pick each bud carefully, building
his nest, a nettled home in

which these next few months he’ll be