Seven minutes from home, we stopped.
Pulled over, and turned the car around
A quail, a little thing – a leaf in the gutter
Lurching from the car and watching it
Sit there in fear, looking at me.
It doesn’t move as I walk right up to it.
Bend down, and pick it up
But some jumping panic jolts it out of my hands at contact Hands that were to carry it to safety
Its wing is damaged; it only hops
In circles. Round, round, it gets nowhere.
(Am I the human or the bird in this poem?)
I crouch again.
Cover its eyes this time – see?
There’s nothing there
Cup its body-
This soft, warm thing
This solid, struggling life-
Impossibly real, sitting feeble and frozen In my hands
I could crush it in a squeeze
If I wanted to
– I won’t.
I could take it home, fill a box
With soft things and water
Let it rest in warmth while it heals
Oh, I could smother it with care
But that would kill it, as surely as leaving it.
And my parents are waiting for me.
So I take it, cross the road, and lower my hands
Under the reach of a grassy bough
Watch for a moment, and return to the car.
And all the way home, I carry
Those few seconds of life against my palms
By Jay Richards