In the morning from the bedroom past the fireplace where the floor creaks
then over the wool rug to the wood floor
to the red jute runner where the dead red bird lies.
The black dog with toothpick legs
(they have not snapped in all his three years)
is first, then the brown dog, who I yank to pull away –
she is weaker but her nose is stronger.
Up. Up. Off the floor they spring
and Steve is walking out over the wool rug to the jute one.
Once we did snow angels there before the bird and even before the jute rug,
the rows of wood measuring our wings.
The cat (who is wearing a bell on his collar to detract songbirds)
has already forgiven himself and is hungry, pacing by the bathroom tiles.
The bird’s blood is maroon. I thank the cat for not putting blood on the beige rug.
It is a female cardinal, feathers like dog fur
the way they collect in chunks across the foyer
and shift when I walk to the yellow rug
then out onto the garage step—cold—to fetch the vacuum.
Steve is in charge of collecting the dead animals:
here below my ribs there is an embryo
that may not live through an encounter with a maybe-sick thing.
I hear a paper bag snap full of air in Steve’s hands, then he rolls up the top.
I vacuum up the feathers, which are gray unlike the red that I would have imagined.
Dead gray like the clumps of fur in the foyer and the dust bunnies under our bed,
which I collect, too, sad strata inside the vacuum bag.
I snake through the house; the dog paws retract when I am near,
afraid and too close, afraid and too close.
Then clogs on and walking down the sidewalk: two dead baby birds under two trees.
So that no one has to feel that kind of death under a shoe,
and no one has to think about death more than we do,
Steve makes a makeshift stretcher out of sticks and drags the birds out into the grass.
That was three dead birds today, two babies, babies down, I am on my knees.