The Bird Lady

She lives in a modest house in a poorer part
of town. Her neighbors all consider her quite odd.
Among living creatures, birds are dearest to her heart.
She is elderly, eighty-odd years on earth having trod.

One passion completely fills her life – her birds -- to feed,
to watch over, to love. All around her home – front yard,
back yard – are scores of bird feeders. Buying the seed
devours her meager budget monthly, making it hard

to pay all bills; still she keeps the feeders filled.
Countless birds – injured, sick, fallen from the nest –
she hand-raises and sets free. Any cat that has killed
one of her birds becomes a sworn enemy for the rest

of its life, to be driven from the yard with broom swinging.
A neighbor boy – young and foolhardy – shot a bird once…
but that’s another story. Some complain of the birds’ singing
at dawn, a hundred-bird-strong cacophony of overabundance.

Certainly, the most remarkable thing of all just has to be
how she interacts with the birds. They fly so willingly
to her, sitting on her shoulders and arms – a sight to see!
She knows each bird’s song, and they converse freely.

Some say she is St. Francis reincarnated. Most simply call
her “the bird lady”. For forty years she has been the cause
of neighborhood wonder. On this day the neighbors all
hear hundreds of birds giving their distress calls because

the bird lady has collapsed, lying unconscious, in dire need.
At the hospital she admits for a while she hasn’t been buying
her medicines. “I can’t afford both my pills and bird seed.”
Her condition deteriorates; soon it is clear that she is dying.

A nurse says, “Outside hundreds of birds had gathered quietly,
but now all of them are singing. It’s one of the strangest things!”
The bird lady rouses, “In Heaven the birds are singing so sweetly.”
Then, as she dies, “I’ll get to fly with my birds, on angel wings.”

The next day one neighbor after another puts a bird feeder in
their yard, each determined not to let the bird lady’s tradition end.

Harry Edward Gilleland      12.22.02    printer friendly