A Bright-Yellow-And-Black Bird

by Sybil Smith

Sybil Smith lives in Vermont on the Connecticut River. She no longer feels the need to dazzle the world with her eloquence, and her greatest joy comes from taking care of a baby. She has been sober for more than eight years.

Right now there is a bright-yellow-and-black bird —
whose name I used to know
before I started taking this pill
called Lexapro,
which used to help me drink less
(though it hasn’t been working that well lately) —
and this bird is singing,
“There is a God!”

Earlier today I went up to my sister’s house:
I needed to take extreme measures,
because I’ve been waiting to hear from a literary agent
as if my life depends on it,
and my brother has pancreatic cancer,
and despite all the meds I am taking,
pain was climbing inside me with a knife in its teeth.
I’d tried healthy alternatives,
such as calling someone in AA
and planting cauliflower in the garden
and standing outside under the sky,
trying to believe there is a Higher Power
that loves me, goddamn it.
But the phone wasn’t ringing,
and I was in pain,

and my brother was dying,
so I got in my car and drove
a quarter mile to my sister’s house
to get a shot of rum (OK, three shots of rum),
which helped a lot.

And when I came home, my cat had something
pinned to the ground, and I walked up and
saw this bright-yellow-and-black bird
lying in the grass, dead.
But when I reached down and touched it,
I felt life in its body.
Life throbbing all over it. Life like a chorus, a storm,
a poem, a shot of rum.
And I lifted it and flung it into the air,
and, oh my God, it flew.
A few feathers floated down as
it soared past the hemlock
and over the river.
My cat got so upset it jumped on the shed roof,
wishing it could fly after the bird.
And I stood there surprised with a feather in my hands.
And right now there is a bright-yellow-and-black bird
who is singing.

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