My mother saved a nest of baby birds
in early May, the air mild and hushed
when you can see the gray melting
into colors we forgot existed.
She saved them in a shoebox, the
4 or 5 warm pink bellies and worried herself sick.
I heard if we touch a newborn animal,
its mother won’t come back. But I drove with
my own to the 24-hour convenience store for
baby food and watched her careful hands
under a flickering porch light,
how she shivered beneath an indifferent moon.
Every last bird had died
before the first call of the morning chickadee
when the world was still very blue. I think about
those birds now, their weak skin, every inch of it
vulnerable and dependent on my mother.
She’d be the last thing they could count on
and she had to know
what kind of mother wouldn’t come back.