The robin

Plump little robin
we stand around you, aghast
at your misfortune

stuck there in the grille
of the SUV after
two hours’ interstate

yet you are alive
calling in your bird language
blinking and trembling

head twisting, trying
valiantly but in vain
to set yourself free

I think you’re impaled
except there’s not any blood
plus, your voice is strong,

full of warning, as
I lean in to examine
the situation:

both feet balled up tight
against your belly, somehow
straddling metal bars

wedged body, aslant
—can it really be intact?
—little eyes, so bright

that we three humans
standing before you in awe
vow to do our best

I grab a towel
(my childhood pet parakeet
often flew the coop

and had to be caught.
I learned to cover him first;
that small beak is sharp)

and we cover you,
but your loud cries of distress
tell us pulling hurts

—oh, you’re a fighter,
courageous little robin
biting at the cloth!

My sister-in-law
covers your face; my husband
hands me an ink pen

(ever-present in
his shirt pocket, a good thing,
as you never know

when you might need it,
in this case, to save a life)
so I wield the pen

through the metal grille,
through your feathers, bit by bit
freeing a pinned wing

until you’re sliding
into my cloth-shielded hands
like a newborn child

like a miracle
released at last, in the grass,
suddenly running

yes, flapping both wings
before taking a nose dive
into the clover

unable to fly
at least for now, surely bruised
needing time to heal

—the backyard becomes
bird rehabilitation,
bird sanctuary

where I can watch you
hopping along, pulling worms
these warm winter days

but I’m glad on your behalf,
keeping my distance

hoping predators
do the same, until you’re healed
and take to the skies

lucky bird, forgive
my bad Shakespearean pun:
you’re Robin the Plucked

for salvation comes
in the most peculiar ways,
begging the question

of mortality,
the taking and the giving
in daily living

these two days I’ve watched
your grounded red breast gleaming
by the old arbor

—today, no sighting,
inexplicable sadness
despite the wonder

of your survival
and the part I got to play.
Little Robin, plucked

to live life anew,
here’s to taking flight on your
wings and my prayers.

Robin the Plucked right after his rescue from the grille of my sister-in-law’s SUV. She’d driven down I-95 a few days after Christmas to visit us. Robin had some feathers askew from his ordeal but his wings weren’t dragging; my husband and I put him in our fenced backyard in hopes that nature would take its course, that he’d soon be fit enough to fly again (and that he’d want to). There are no words to adequately describe him enmeshed in that grille, very much alive and calling out, or for the sight of him immediately trying to run once we got him loose and laid him on the grass. I was amazed and elated to see him eating in the backyard with other birds that came and went the next day. I didn’t go near him again, as when I attempted it, he ran. I refused to distress him any more (heaven knows being trapped on the front of a car going 70 mph is enough for a lifetime). I joke that he’s my last good deed of 2021; I kept an eye on him all yesterday. On this first day of 2022, he is gone.

I keep watching, however.

One final observation, regarding the symbolism of robins: They’re tied to a number of legends and mostly positive connotations like spring and good luck (begging another question: Who’s the actually the bringer of luck here, Robin the Plucked or me?). But the perspective of Mother Teresa moves me most at present, as quoted in No Greater Love (Benenate & Durepos) on the legend of the robin and Christ’s crown of thorns: “Each of us should try and be that bird – the little robin. When we see someone in pain, we must ask ourselves: ‘What can I do to give them comfort?’”

Happy New Year and new life to you, Robin, wherever you are.

And to you all.

6 thoughts on “The robin

  1. What a saga (poor Robin) and what a gift that he encountered you and your family. So glad he flew the arbor and moved on, despite his close call. Thanks for sharing this with us, a reminder to offer comfort to all in our circle who are in pain.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That quote about how we might offer comfort moved me so, Ramona. That Mother Teresa linked it to the legend of the robin trying to comfort Christ on the cross, especially. We were not sure we could extricate Robin. He was so vocal and his eyes were so bright; we couldn’t just leave him to die. We had to try. It was a wondrous thing when he slid free after some careful manipulation of that pen, then to see him stand and trying to run! And eating with other birds the next day! What other word is there but AWE?


  2. I feel so sorry for this poor creature! Yet another common thread- husbands with pens. We don’t buy shirts without what we have come to call the “necessary pocket.” That poor bird, though….what a sweet tribute to Robin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Does your husband have a pocket protector?? My boys shamed their dad out of his 🤣. I was so nervous trying to free that robin. All I could think is that we had to try. How long he was trapped there, we don’t know
      – but talk about AWE. He lived! He could walk and eat! Surely he’s flown on now.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my, that poor robin. Fran, thankfully for the bird you were all there to save him/her. Your poem had me on the edge of my seat with each word; I felt like I was there with all of you. I am happy you were able to watch the robin rehabilitate. I loved each stanza, but especially this one “to live life anew,
    here’s to taking flight on your wings and my prayers.” Thank you for sharing and your inspiration. Happy New Year and new life to you, also. 🙂 Possibly, you could turn this into a book or article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t believe it was alive, Gail! Or that its back and wings weren’t mangled. That little robin had so much spirit. He had a death grip with his beak on the old dish towel after we placed him in the backyard. I am still in awe of his survival and hope he’s flown on. Haven’t seen him (or any birds) in the backyard for a couple of days. Thank you for your words!


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