Client The Tiniest Patient, A Guide to Field Indentification Birds of North America, Golden Books, photo by James C. Henderson
Categories Poems in the Time of Pandemic, Poetry
Location New Brighton, Minnesota
Date April 17, 2020

James C. Henderson

—for Anastasia

My granddaughter found a bird doing backflips
in the middle of the street
blood on the back of his neck.
Her dog sniffed at it.

She picked it up and took it
to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
Her girlfriend drove
(even though they weren’t suppose to be out)
through clouds of coronavirus.

Halfway there her girlfriend said
“I think he’s dead.”
My granddaughter slowly opened her hand.
and looked at the bird cradled there.
He was still, his tiny eyes closed
and she burst into tears.

The woman at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
said the bird was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
probably migrating from the warm Gulf coast
to the fresh boreal forests of Canada
only to die on a cold and snowy day
in Minneapolis.

Later that evening a young nurse made
a video on her phone at the end of her shift
at a New York City hospital
telling how today she’d walked into a room
to find a woman she’d intubated
earlier in the morning had died.
The nurse was sobbing.
She said she was tired of walking into a room
to find a person dead.

Whenever a patient was expiring, she said
without friends or family present
she tried to sit in the room with them
behind her face mask and her plastic shield
so, at least, someone was there when they died
so, at least, they were not alone.