I’m like a bird

· [and a cloud and a snake] ·

February 23, 2019 0 Comments

By the end of week one of our writing class, I had become a bird, a cloud, then slithered about as a snake. Nothing about these first few prompts was easy. I did it anyway.

Day 1 | You are a bird. Briefly describe yourself. Then describe in great detail the flight from one tree to another one mile away.

I am a bird of prey, a stealth huntress: steely, stately, deadly.
Beady, intense eyes still yet endlessly alert, an ancient knowing behind the pale hazel gaze.
Beak angular, itself like a talon, dark and dangerous.
The soft down of brown spotted and streaked feathers.

Only the yellow reptilian skin of my legs betrays the sinewy musculature underneath, exposed like the branch I cling to, stripped of its summer leaves. Black talons grip the smooth bare limb. My frame exposed, easily sighted, but I fear not.

Cells afire, I gather to my full height and leap. Wings outstretched wide, my pale underbelly feathers turn a shade darker against the crisp freshly fallen snow. From behind two small birds approach, pestering, chasing. It’s a familiar irritation, never welcome. My body turns slightly, red tail feathers issue their warning, and I turn sharply now, higher still, outpacing their staccato flapping in but one strong waggle of wing. I slow again, a brown blot in the melancholy winter sky gliding effortlessly in wide sweeping circles.

Lingering mid-air as I spot a disturbance in the fresh fallen snow below, the tiniest shadow cast, imperceptible to an eye less sharp. The wind in my face, I hover briefly and then dive, swiftly, soundly, intentionally. Wings wide, legs outstretched, eye fixed on the irregularity of solid form. In a flash the unsuspecting grey vole is seized n my fierce beak. I catapult skyward, honing in on the solitary tree in the distance.


Day 3 | You are a cloud above the bird. Briefly describe yourself. Then describe watching the bird fly from one tree to another one mile away from your vantage point.

Yesterday’s brilliant sun with its cloudless skies have come and gone. The wintery pale light has returned and so have I, my form thin and hesitant. I long for the heavy heat of summer when I can squeeze moisture from the sticky air and gather myself in monstrous scale, plump with delight, laden with promise. Winter brings misery, the landscape is sparse and the uniformity bores me. The trees, stripped of their vibrancy, stand like naked sentry guarding an empty village. The dull grey and dirty browns, corn stalks stiff and lifeless, the tractors hibernating under cover of a tarp, the only movement the smoke curling from the farmhouse chimney.

As self-pity is about overwhelm, a speck of brown disturbs the monotonous sea of white on the ground below. The sentry wasn’t so naked after all. There was a house guest atop those spindly arms. Her movement is salvation! My malaise plummets as the hawk does, at daring speeds, straight toward the ground below us both. Her sight mysteriously honed, mine unpracticed in noticing, she touches down for but a moment. Leaving a soft puff of snow in her wake, I don’t see the squirming form caught in those deadly obsidian talons. Life and death traveling together, soaring straight toward me. Or so I think. For alas, the majestic beast is off, flying away, her sustenance firmly in grasp, mine gone with it.


Day 5 | You are a snake below the bird and the cloud. Briefly describe yourself. Then describe watching the bird fly from one tree to another one mile away–and the cloud above it.

My body is lean now. The fat stores gathered last fall are gone. My quiet hibernation is over and this queen hungers.  As I slide limbless from the comfort of the dark burrow onto the exposed rock, I am unprepared for what awaits. The cold crisp air sends a sharp pain the entire length of my body. I hurriedly gather myself up into a tight coil, preserving whatever little heat I can draw from my rocky perch to the smooth scales of my olive brown skin.  My triangular nose points skyward regally, pupils alert.

The day is sunless, a long feathery cloud blots out what’s left of any paltry rays that might eek through. The nearby pond no doubt dormant still, too cold for young tender crayfish to thrive. Yesterday’s warmth was a cruel trick, a false start. It will be a deadly one if I don’t move fast. Unwinding to turn back, my scaly skin suddenly prickles with fear. I smell the danger before my rounded eyes spot the red tailed predator.  It barrels toward me, fixed on its mark. The landing is fleeting, imperceptible but for the blast of cold left in her wake as the snow dust flies. I have been spared for now, the circle of life closing for some other hapless creature.

I lower my gaze and turn. The crevice opening awaits and I slither yellow-bellied back into its protective bowels.

February 24, 2019