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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 27 page 10

verse

When birds learn to fly

by D.S. Maolalai

there was this time
in Toronto.
I was living
alone
without friends
or lovers
and the only people I talked to
were people on the job —
dull men and women
with lives like used-up bike tires,
chained to the desks
and talking like the backs of postcards.
and I'd got up early
on a day off
to leave my apartment
and just walk somewhere,
just to get some air
and down the stairs
in the yard
there were these two
birds
they had escaped the nest
and they were hopping around
cheeping little sounds.
they were small
with bullet heads
and black eyes
and brown beaks,
and they moved with caution,
they twitched,
jumping
step over step,
moving like stop-motion figures,
and I stopped
and put down my hand to them
with two fingers stretched out
and one of them hopped on. it was
magic. this little weight
like a ping-pong ball,
balanced in my hand. the claws
clutched my finger,
and they were horny and brittle
as the stem on a grape.
it was spring. I suppose
that's when birds
learn to fly.
they weren't frightened of me.
not even at all.
they were jewels,
turned out of a box,
scattered on a nightstand.
the other one was wary,
or sensible,
but this one on my hand
just adjusted himself
and flapped wings
and made his little bird noises. I
got a picture
quick as I could
and then put him down
and I went back home
to tear up a bagel.
when I came back
they were gone. life,
I suppose,
had continued to happen.
the sun went behind a cloud
and came out again.
I dropped the breadcrumbs
and looked around the garden,
scanning
with anxiety
for cats.