the long quiet of winter
bird after bird after bird
passes through my hands.
all the long day in the cool autumn sun,
laughing, teaching, sharing
the work of killing,
the work of bringing food
from the living.
the bucket black with old blood,
filling red with new.
feathers by the handful.
leaves falling all day in long cascades
themselves dry feathers from a cloudless sky.
in the morning, crows, and then cranes.
in the evening, cranes, and then quiet.
entrails red on the ground,
left carefully out for coyotes.
in my heart, an uneasy silence.
the good work i’ve been given, in fullness.
and the hollow of the missing, the lost, the dead.
all the birds dispatched to their tables,
the long quiet of winter descends.