Salome Magazine
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LAce Posted Monday, June 13th, 2005
The First Brood
Fawn Pattison

I walked away with tears in my eyes, feeling powerless. A tiny stirring of hope made me turn back for another look, just in case. Oh, that sad little body with feet dangling limply from the rosebush. The robin’s feathers were just beginning to make themselves evident on its naked skin – it might have been six or seven days old. Was it the breeze moving those limp feet? A sigh or a soft sob moved through my chest and I called to it, “are you alive, baby?” Then its head moved, more than a little bit. I ran for the shed and the ladder, throwing my belongings against the back fence. I startled our huge, soft cat, charging with the ladder back onto the front porch. My heart was pounding in my throat as I reached for the twisted body with my gardening gloves on. It didn’t struggle or make a sound as I dislodged it so slowly, so slowly, from the roses. My knees shook and thorns scraped my wrists. I held it softly in my palm and set the nest back in its rosebush cradle, and then gently laid the baby robin inside.

Looking through the bedroom window this morning I could see the nest, wrenched from its place, hanging sideways from the trellis, and I cried again. G. said he had checked and he thought there was still one baby in there, somehow clinging to the nest. He had seen the adult robin there this morning, perhaps trying to feed a survivor.

He woke me up last night yelling “no, oh no!” as he charged out the front door. I had fallen asleep reading The Hounds of the Morrigan and when he came back inside after a few minutes and told me that a black cat had climbed the rose trellis on our porch and destroyed the robin’s nest, I was not sure whether I was awake, or asleep and dreaming that a terrible spirit had attacked our home in the guise of an agile and hungry black cat. Then I was definitely awake, as he hung his head and told me about the little dead bird lying on the porch, dinner scraps left behind by the invader in its escape. The distress cries of the male robin had caught G’s attention. I felt sick. A marauder had come in the night, a monster tearing our neighbors’ babies from their beds. We cried a little together before going to sleep. If only it had been a black snake, extracting a baby robin in exchange for keeping the rats away from the compost pile, instead of a creeping, yellow-eyed monster.

Our compost pile had fed the babies well. The robins pulled fat, juicy worms and all sorts of bugs from the pile and kept the gaping mouths stuffed. We had to choose carefully when to water the window boxes so as not to interrupt their feedings. Our huge, lazy cat guarded the nest in the afternoons from his sleeping spot in a pool of sunlight on the front porch. Five quivering beaks had stretched out to gobble the worms, un-regurgitated, straight from their parents’ mouths.

Now there is just one. “Please come back, robins,” I begged as I stood on the front sidewalk. The baby robin was hardly alive. It lay limply in the nest, perhaps too exhausted to accept a feeding anyway. It needed a worm and its father’s warm breast feathers, an emergency. I read later on the internet that robins sometimes have two or three broods in a season, and that the male takes over caring for the babies when the female goes to roost in the new nest. I hope they don’t use our rose trellis again.

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Anna McDougall on Monday, June 27th, 2005 at 1:27 PM
We observe nature as it gives and takes with human standards and sometimes it breaks our hearts. Well done, Fawn.

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