After planting some geraniums in the newly reclaimed flowerbed under the big front window of my mother’s house, I went into the backyard to plant six impatiens in an old wine barrel. As I was getting started, I noticed a dead bird several feet away on the lawn. It was limp and missing its head. I don’t know what kind of bird it was. It was about the size of a scrub jay, but without any blue markings. There were no stray feathers in the area, and the head was nowhere near, unless it was hidden in the ivy somewhere along the fence. Oddly enough, the neck was not a bloody mess; instead, it seemed to be soft and downy, almost as if the bird had lived long enough after its mishap to begin to heal and grow some new feathers — until the absence of its head took its final toll, possibly due to the warm, humid weather we’ve been having.

When our kids were small, my wife and I used to read them a delightful book from the library called The Man Who Lost His Head. Published in 1942, the story was written by Claire Huchet Bishop and masterfully illustrated by Robert McCloskey. It’s about a man who has lost his head, and all the trouble he goes to to compensate for its absence. I remember quite vividly how he looks when he puts a parsnip where his head is supposed to be, how poorly his hat fits as a result, and the expression on the parsnip’s face just above the knot in the man’s tie. A truly fantastic book.

Instead of burying the bird, I picked it up with the blade of a hoe and set it down as gently as I could in the ivy near the trunks of two white birch trees. That way, if the head should return, or if another head presents itself, there will still be a chance for a miracle to occur. An owl’s head would be nice, if a bit extravagant. But if a goat’s head arrives, or the head of snake or chimpanzee, it could spell trouble. The same goes for their bodies.

Sick. In fact, this sounds like I’m missing one or the other myself. Or maybe they’re missing each other.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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