Pussywillow from the browning dregs of ice and new moss gone porous in spring melt budded. The feathered catkin, silvered fairy crowns prone to collection at their nubs by children’s fingers and by the older botanical collector who clips the tawny pussywillow branches purposefully, the demure decorator of dining table and bedroom sill. Pussywillow in the marsh edge, where unporched chickadees ferret for seed and sprout. One chickadee half dead but not yet, squashed mid-flight, midnight on the highest north exit of Interstate-295 river where headlights burst a vein through meandering pine and birch hollow. The driver not pausing, the night was dark and the cold frightening and the little space through which a few roads made a town let up some beckoning house light. Keeled breastbone split on her left, rendering what was fragility faire semblant to a delightful keening terror, hors de combat, the thin pretty sack of pinion, alula and coverts, coracoid, pectoralis, the rope-and-pulley-system and mess without the bone branches on which to root structure, purpose. She flapped and plucked her beak at seed, stem, husk.
One deer starved by the same winter that was half gone but not yet rooted idly through the undergrowth, her teeth on the ice and the ice thick on the moss, mostly. She ate clean the moss heads struck up through, until they were shaved nubble on dirt gone to turrets and crystal in melt. She ate the peelings of the pussywillow bark, pungent and sapped, and when her nose came upon the broken chickadee, both winter-worn creatures startled. The nose of the deer came back down in a tired acquiescence and in that same tired way followed the hopping bird a step and another until the bird was in the pussywillow and the deer took the chickadee into her flat mouth and chewed. With patience for the sharp angles of the chickadee feet, beak, the peculiar crush of bone and feather, the deer chewed and the chickadee made no peep, as if both took no unusual enjoyment nor discomfort from that moment, which was the ending for one and the mindless continuation of the other. When this was done, the deer ate at the pussywillow bark with blood and feathers in her teeth. On the sidewalks in the town, the street sweeper machine ground its round brushes and cleared dust from the roads so that the dust sat in the air, and fell on what snow was left, subduing all things to brown.
Katherine Cart is a writer and Gulf of Maine commercial lobsterwoman. She is a staff writer for USRESIST News, providing insights to coastal conservation and fisheries practices. Her fiction writing focuses on wealth disparity in rural communities.
A Song for Katherine