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Elegies, 2006

A summer day on the porch, I am reading a eulogy of the Reverend William Sloane Coffin, smiling at his brilliant aphorisms on justice and mercy, sorry there will be no more of them.

A bird slams into the neighbors’ house and falls into the bushes, still alert enough to cry.  A rustle too large for this small bird draws me to my feet to look, and a tiger-striped cat darts out of the bush and over the fence.  My motion has spared the bird a sudden death, but what help am I now, as it chirps its pitiful SOS.

This is the second bird crash of the week.  Another day an old crow—how could I not empathize?—dropped from the sky and lay gasping, beak wide open, in my driveway.  Above, in all the neighboring trees, crows flitted and squawked alarms.  She finally arighted herself and crossed the lawn in slow, panting hops, then propped herself against the trunk of a lightning-scarred maple, half hidden behind the hosta. The overhead squawking silenced.  Crow hospice, I thought, and regretted my call to Animal Control, my duty in the war against West Nile virus.  “It’s that time of year for crows,” the young woman who scooped her into a live cage consoled me in her calm, nurse-like voice.

This morning I make no calls.  I step into the house, hoping the desperate chirps will stop while I’m gone.  My capacity for mercy has been strained.

We have reached a milestone in the war in Iraq:  2500  U.S. fatalities.  Some of the 18,000 plus wounded will die, too. They lean quietly into what peace they can manage as they wait for death’s catstroke.

Some sorrows are natural and inevitable, but many are not.  Where is the new prophet who will insist that we see the difference?

© Cheri Register, 2011