If birds could write, which bird would write like which author. The Osprey would clearly be Hemingway knowing the sea, but with no need for an old man. The common Gallinule might become Billy Collins, an easy laugh and always entertaining. The crows could be so many writers attending workshops, all still looking for a voice to express themselves without causing their audience to turn away. The great egret could well be Alice Munro creating beauty without need for intensity her audience content to watching her do little and the cattle egret would be David Sedaris mining that the detritus of the world for that short, ever pithy humorous twist. The Sandhill Crane, Murakami always with a strange tale, and as are all cranes, ever so Japanese.
In a perfect world it would be a requirement that every person upon reaching the age of 40 would be compelled to write a draft of a eulogy in the voice of each lover or partner whose relationship he or she chose to end, one that the spurned lover would deliver at his or her funeral. The task would come with the caveat that one or more such exes would be asked to deliver a eulogy, and it would be their choice to write their own or read the one the departed had prepared for them. It wouldn’t take all that long to realize how interesting these funerals will likely be.
I am just wondering what you would say if you were called to testify about all that you had seen, all that had disgusted you, all that you condemned but did and said nothing while it occurred. What would you say if you had no choice but truth, no shading, no mincing of words, just the harsh light and you in a chair in an empty room, a disembodied voice asking endless questions? It is best that you remain silent, say nothing at all, for we have already judged you, and you know your own guilt.
Grace settles into the chair, less an act of sitting than of floating down onto the seat. She has borrowed my grandmother’s smile, kind, gentle, inviting. She pulls a book from her bag, its pages or most of them dog eared, and I glimpse some annotations in the margins. We sit around her like children awaiting presents on a holiday, as acolytes seeking knowledge from a font of poetic and prosaic wisdom, or so we think. She reads in a voice that is at once soft and loud enough to reach the back of the room, opening the book to a random page and diving in, then after what seems like a minute and an hour, she stops and asks for questions. We sit dumbstruck for a moment then fire at her like machine gunners on the range. She answers each, claims she is a simple grandmother who writes but we know better, know we are in the presence of a true master.
In that moment when the gentle chirping of a small bird resounds as a pounding spring deluge, washes away the creak and thrum of passing cars, when she sings only to you, her small voice drawn in to your ears, your mind, until it fades slowly like the bell and you wait for it to strike again, to feel it seep down your spine, ooze into your fingers and toes, pool in bent knees and elbows, folded hands. In that moment the gentle chirping is your voice, and you are perched in the weeping cherry tree in the garden preening in the morning sun.