Carry on

The bird at the roadside sat
day after day after day
by the body of his lifetime mate
after she passed away

The naturalist saw him there
day after day after day
’til finally with some rotting meat
she lured the bird away

You must carry on, old boy
carry on carry on carry on
a marvel, how you honor your mate
when she’s carrion carrion carrion

Dedicated to the local buzzard who mourned his dead partner by the roadside. Until this story reached me, I didn’t know that turkey buzzards mate for life. I’ve since learned that they lack vocal organs…they cannot call or sing or cry. They can only grunt and hiss as they go about the humble work of cleaning up carcasses…but not, apparently, those of their mates.

Photo: 11 Turkey Buzzard Pittsboro NC 9425bobistraveling. CC BY 2.0.

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March. This is my sixth year participating.

29 thoughts on “Carry on

  1. Oh, I love when I learn something new when I read! More importantly, I love how you evoked so much feeling in me, despite my dislike of such birds. What a sad misfortune to be voiceless, especially in such a time of pain and loss. I’m impressed with your ability to rhyme, and yet maintain a depth and sadness in telling this turkey vulture’s tale. Great slice!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comments make my day – thank you! I love birds and find myself paying more and more attention to them, although I have to confess buzzards haven’t been among them, even though they provide such valuable service to us all. This poor old turkey vulture stole my heart.

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  2. Fran,
    I didn’t know that Turkey buzzards mate for life either! What interesting tidbits about these birds. I love the play on words – carry on, carrion. I’m thinking the naturalist was you – luring him away with the message to go forth and carry on is very youish, and something tells me no one else even noticed or cared until today, when we are all touched by this poor buzzard, part of the Roadkill cleanup crew. Who mourns a Turkey buzzard? You do – and with your perspective-changing finesse, now we do!

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    • I should love to have been the naturalist here, Kim, but it was actually someone new to our community with some experience in animal rehab. As much as I love birds, I’ve never had warm feelings for the abundant turkey buzzard…until now. Truth is, they symbolize patience and endurance (they float in the air for long stretches) as well as protection. They aren’t killers; they provide invaluable service by cleaning up the dead. That this poor fellow mourned his mate and stayed faithfully beside her pretty much undid me…oh, and the photo: a common pose for buzzards. They spread their wings this way for the sun to kill bacteria. Fascinating!

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  3. I learned something new today – and it is not even 7 am!! Your poem is great; never ever knew this about buzzards – your lines imploring ‘carry on’ and the rhyming/homonym ‘carrion…’ oh my, this cracked me up.

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  4. This is not a bird I would feel compassion for, but you so beautifully felt the grief of the mate. Thanks for making me think again about the turkey buzzard.

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    • Now I am reading more about vultures. Margaret – see how one thing leads to another? The writerly life…I know, right – poor ol’ buzzard. Hope he can find happiness again.

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  5. Oh that’s so sad to hear! Thanks for the lovely poem and word play and for teaching us something more about birds that appear unattractive, but serve a very useful purpose. We don’t have turkey buzzards or any vulture types over here, so I will have to admire them from afar.
    I have to say, I think it’s probably a good thing that he doesn’t have a voice as I don’t feel it would be a very attractive sound!
    .

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    • I am wondering now about buzzard/vulture sounds…one couldn’t expect it to have the soul-piercing cry of the hawk or the glorious song of wrens, cardinals, or thrushes…so naturally I am reading up on this more. Thank you for your words!

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  6. Fran!!! So happy I happened upon your post today. Your word play is as exquisite as ever; the repetition is so carefully crafted. The double entendre of your title is so, so clever. How long does it take you to craft such a piece? I also loved the fun facts you shared afterwards. I always learn something about craft and nature in your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cindy – so wonderful to ‘see’ you again! Thank you for these words and for questions about craft. Here’s the thing about the poem: I didn’t know it was going to be a poem. I heard the story last week and thought – that has to be told, I must write it, it’s too good. I compose a lot in my head throughout each day, not always with words, more like turning images and scenes around for mood, testing my own emotions. When I finally started to write this and frame it (the pressing question with any piece being how to begin?), the first line materialized. I wanted to give the bereaved buzzard his due and to also honor the animal rehab woman who’s helping him “carry on.” It began to feel like an ode – but simpler. The rhyme just happened in the first stanza. I was midway through the second line before ‘carrion’ fell into my mind. I’d been intrigued – and relieved, honestly – that the buzzard hadn’t eaten his mate. I knew I wanted to reference this but the ‘how’ didn’t happen until I was actually writing, which took maybe 30 minutes or so for this short poem. I often lose track of time, though – the crafting can run into hours before I know it. Thank you for questions that make me pause and reflect on my own process – this is invaluable! ❤

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  7. What beautiful writing to honor this creature. I also learned a bit from your poem, particularly how they mate for life. It does makes me sad to think about how they carry these feelings for the remainder of their days. What does that feel like for them?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This post is proof that humans are NOT alone in our humanity. That if we only observe with open eyes and hearts, our animal counterparts are much more complex beings than we ever give them credit for.

    I also have to say – your use of “carry on / carrion” is spectacular here. Not just for the cleverness of the wordplay (it WAS clever!) but also because you’re able to pull it off with such a natural, sincere tone. BRAVO!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I worried a bit that the “carrion” part would undo the real sense of grief the buzzard displayed – yet, I wanted to point out that he did not, in fact, resort to eating his mate, when the whole of his life is cleaning up the dead. There’s a great humanitarian element in that for sure…he stayed by her, grieving. I went with it and trusted the readers. And once again, it pays off…thank you for this validating comment ❤

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