Bring Me Back a Bird

[Photo Credit: Chuck Homler]

“If men had wings and bore black feathers, Few of them would be clever enough to be crows.”
—Henry Ward Beecher

When I die, if there’s a world to return to, bring me back a bird. A powerful, plumed reptilian beast who races through the sky. Cageless and carried by the wind, unchained by gravity, with vast wings spread for all to see as I brazenly take flight. And oh, the soulful songs I’d sing perched on a branch in a cottonwood tree, luring mates and claiming territory—they’d echo through the canyon. My primal instincts razor-sharp just like my beak and talons. My prey outmatched by swiftest hunt and ultraviolet vision. Soaring high above the clouds, surveying the Earth, I would see that which remains, what society’s still worth.

Alright, let’s see…which bird would I be? Perhaps the warbling goldfinch. Neon yellow with black and white wings and a big, proud, puffy chest. The craftiest of critters, I’d build the perfect nest from shrubs and weeds and fine spun, silky spiderwebs; then I’d flit away to feast all day on dandelion and thistle. An expert acrobat, I’d peck each seedhead upside down. Orchards, woodlands, gardens, groves—these terrains my playground. With songs as sweet as fairy tales, tunes succinct and varied, my charming ways could not be tamed were I a wild canary.

On second thought, I’d be a peregrine falcon. No faster predator on the planet than I. Flying the sacred Sonoran sky; stalking rodents, rabbits, and birds. This pristine land now marred by hate, where countless unmarked refugee graves line a vulgar border wall built for political gain, will in time reclaim itself. And on that spectacular day, I’ll glide to the lower Gila banks, over prickly saguaros standing tall, their fragrant flowers in full blossom. Once bulldozed by powerful men, the desert’s cadence syncs again. Prejudice and freedom are no longer confused as a red sun sets on native sands.

Or maybe a macaw in the Peruvian Amazon: scarlet, turquoise, sapphire, green. With vibrant feathers like skyborne jewels, I’d flaunt my color proudly. A hundred feet up the shihuahuaco tree, a state of supreme diversity, alongside jaguars, monkeys, caimans, and snakes. Truest utopia. Gone would be the poachers and loggers too. Our rain forest grows back again. No one with guns to steal our young from their vulnerable nest. No industries to kill our air, asphyxiate us so we cannot breathe. On the contrary, under this canopy, my raucous call would fill the vital river valley.

Oh wait, hold on. I forgot the firehawks. Those fearsome, fabled Aussie raptors. Dropping burning twigs on dry savanna grass and smoking out their game. But instead of spreading wildfire, I’d incinerate injustice wherever it lay. Stoke crackling flames and burn bigotry down. Render it erased. Like they did in Minneapolis, on Newark and Detroit’s long, hot summer streets. The “language of the unheard” remains undeterred until all people are free. Hopefully, by the time my next life starts, there’ll be no need to fuel more fires. Though, if smoldering remnants reignite, I’ll keep hawk’s watch for worthy pyres.

No. OK, I’ve got it now. I want to be a crow. Rainbow bird of indigenous legend. Whose ebony feathers reflect a spectrum when lit by the sun. Long before slavery and segregation, before a buffoonish minstrel jumped, before draconian laws denied civil liberty, it flew to the Creator Who Creates By Thinking What Will Be. And like that crow, I’d be an agent of change: moral and courageous, generous, unscathed. Ready to attack any peculiarities that block progress’s way. I’d be quick and cunning, impossible to fool, strong and independent, the toughest nut to crack. So, if anyone dare try to silence me, I’ll fly in their face and caw right back. 

Yes, yes, that’s it—I’ll be a crow. Enough with our maddening human ways. Replace my arms with elegant wings. Fill my path with euphoric flight. Bring me back a beautiful, brilliant, fearless, warrior, evolved, insouciant, bird.

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