30 June, 2007
Walking home on Market Street I almost stepped on a pigeon that had moved on. Men were working right next to him on the windows of a closed storefront. There was nothing on the sidewalk to indicate what he died of--no evidence of violence, no weapons, no discarded coke can, no pile of tossed-out food. Everyone else kept walking. My heart jumped up to my throat and I started thinking about why dead pigeons are so altering for me. It just makes no sense, I thought. Every dead pigeon I see in the City has died before its time.
As I passed into another block, below a young ginkgo tree I saw a dead sparrow. It lay on its side in full profile and had been flattened, as if crushed; I saw it from above as if it had only two dimensions and was embedded in the concrete. It was a sparrow-mosaic. A branch with a leaf still on it lay just outside its beak. The mosaic was beautiful, green and brown and fawn and gray.
How do dead birds lie like this, on clean-swept, dingy sidewalks, in the City, people stepping over them? How do they die?
As if all tenderness had been wrung from the world for just that day.