Bird Fall

by Jeff Friedman

“There’s a bird loose in the house,” I shout as my wife runs from the bedroom.

“I’m no bird,” she shouts back.

“You’re not a bird,” I respond. “The bird is the bird.”

“If I’m not the bird, then there is no bird,” she says.

“Then what chased you from the bedroom? What is that rush of air that keeps blowing between us? that burp of chirps? that wild flinging?”

“I don’t feel, see or hear anything, but you,” she insists.

I point to the feathers at her feet, the white bird turds dolloped on the carpet.

“A few feathers and turds don’t make a bird,” she says. “If there were a bird in the house, we’d have to catch it to let it go.”

“Now it’s our bird, and it’s ruining everything,” I say.

“Ruining what? she answers.

A moment later, the bird slams into her cheek, and they both drop to the floor, dazed. “I told you there was a bird in the house,” I say.

“I don’t see anything,” the bird answers.

Jeff Friedman’s seventh book—a collection of prose poems, fables and mini tales—is forthcoming from Plume Editions/MadHat Press. His poems, mini stories and translations have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, New England Review, The Antioch Review, Poetry International, Plume, Hotel Amerika, Flash Fiction Funny, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Agni Online, The New Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets, New Flash Fiction Review, The New Republic and numerous other literary magazines. Dzvinia Orlowsky’s and his translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. Friedman and Orlowsky were awarded an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship for 2016. Nati Zohar and Friedman’s book of translations Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, was recently published by Singing Bone Press.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Bird Fall”?

    About ten years ago, a very large bird plunged from the high branches of a hemlock crashing through the small double-paned window in my kitchen and landing on the floor near my dog’s food bowl. As my dog came charging into the kitchen, I picked her up before she could attack the bird and carried her into the bedroom, shutting the door. Then my wife ran upstairs from the basement to see what happened. She immediately began opening the doors and windows.

    Large as a chicken and very plump, the bird hunched over the dog bowl like an old monk in meditation. There it stayed for about twenty minutes. Peering over the bird’s shoulder, I got the idea that maybe I should try to identify it. My Pedersen’s Field Guide in tow, I paged through quickly. I had never been able to identify a bird in the field using the guide, but now the bird was actually in my home, dazed and motionless—a sitting duck, so to speak. In a short time, I found a photo of a raptor that appeared almost identical to the bird on my kitchen floor, a ruffed grouse. While the grouse remained motionless, I kneeled next to it. “If it wakes up, maybe it’ll fly out on its own,” my wife said. I heard a sound almost like a helicopter. Fanning its wings, the grouse took off, grazing the ceiling before it plunged through the deck door and disappeared into the woods, leaving behind a huge pile of feathers. Shortly after this event, I began writing fables, mini tales, and prose poems, often involving a relationship and a bird or animal entering the home. Recently completed, “Bird Fall” is a new embodiment of this relationship: man, woman, and animal or bird. The intruder coming into the home sets up my story line. From there, I let the piece follow its own comic path.

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