We watched the nest with time nodding in our direction, like Wait for it and our mothers said Don’t touch. We kept a holy vigil, peeping. They hatched when we were at school and we missed it. There they were: fuzzed heads, open beaks, waiting mouths. Their cheeping. We stood there, beholding our capacity for a reverence so raw, suspicious already that it would expire.
We missed their first flight, too, and their last day in the nest. One day we came home, and it was empty. Just like that. Later, it was gone.
There were things we wanted to know about birds––no, that’s not right. We found these lessons dull: rapid hearts and hollow bones, we nodded, watching the clock for dismissal. What I mean is that there were things we wanted to know as birds, of flight and how you would go about doing it for the first time. And how to land––anywhere, really. As opposed to floating off like forgotten balloons. And how did a body manage to break its shell, the boundary between almost living and now? To say Go! and mean it, beyond the race, the mere game. If we were birds, we would know we were real.
When one landed, the grandmothers knew it as the dead returning. When one came inside a room, it was a warning, desperate wings and beak sirening against the windows. We called for someone grown to help it out.
A warning about what? We wanted to know. But they only said that something is coming.
We meant to keep watch, but we kept missing the moment for the secret. We meant to bird ourselves up and out, far from the shadows that held us, to get to the part in living where we could cast our own––long and wide, over everything.