By Kristen Tracy
The bird flies from my hands and I’ve had
my chance, I think. My parents will never trust me
with a pet. Which reminds me of the chair
I accidentally burned in our garage. My
grandfather’s chair, crafted out of mahogany,
near which I was careless with matches and candles and
rolled magazines lit at one end. The smell
that comes from an old wooden chair, the way the
flames acted like fingers, feeling away the wood. I loved
the way the polish sizzled when I touched the flame
to it. I burned two of the legs into charcoal. I
had been responsible for the death of memory
they said. Stupid, my father would yell at me and promise
to never forgive me. And now I’ve lost
my bird and it’s out in the air catching
diseases that it doesn’t know about. It’s
landing all wrong in the trees, perching where
sparrows or robins belong and standing out
with its bright yellow body and green trim.
What will she eat? For weeks my mother complained
about the starlings nesting at the end of our gutter.
Garbage birds, she called them once. I treat most things
with care, and I feel bad about the chair. I know
That I have lousy moments. I can’t alchemize
anything back out of air or smoke. My mother
went to beat the fire out with a long-strawed broom.
I was grabbing the air with my fists for inches, feet, and
the diameter of entire planets after my bird lifted off.
She slapped the broom on the concrete floor when
the straw caught fire. She pressed her lips to
my father’s neck and then pulled back an inch
to whisper everything that I had done. My parents
keep the chair, as disfigured and worthless as it is, they
keep it in the garage still. They never sat on it anyway,
and I’m sorry that I tempt the outcome of things.
No sorries come from them afterwards. They are cold
and I do not speak. To be beautiful could be the mark
of heredity or luck and there is nothing I can do
for my bird. Not ever her instincts
of hunger or home will bring her back.