Hands latched, they lean together, lifting the body from its watery grave.
They bend, staring, slowly placing piles of torn grass over opaque eyes.
Slick feathers fade under the pink breast and green clippings.
Stiff, empty claws reach out, grasp nothing.
“This is what dead is,” she whispers, and pushes the edge
of the dried branch into the soggy back of the brown bird.
We wait for the sound of the crickets and the cool of the night,
My own reflection held in the four eyes stares back at me, wondering.
The boy places another stick to form a cross over the grassy mound,
looking up, only to find his sister picking yellow flowers in the distance.
His mother’s feet are covered in dirt; she says something about fallen sparrows,
sorrows are words spoken softly as she digs her bare toes deeper into the cool mud.
Similar words echo from others as the dirt is tilled again into uneven rows.
The boy bends, and closes his eyes, still sorrowful that the tiny bird will never fly.
Dr. Renae R. Applegate is an assistant professor of English at Venango College of Clarion University. She currently resides in rural Grove City, Pennsylvania where she shares a rustic dwelling (a home she has lovingly deemed “The Ponderosa”) with her two rambunctious kids, her quirky parents, and a wayward found turtle named Paws. She enjoys coffee (and other highly caffeinated beverages), good books, and good conversation. Though teaching and being a mom take up most of her time, she continues to dabble with prose and vows to someday publish a novel of her own. She is obsessed with Dystopian literature, film, and television, and it wouldn’t be uncommon to find her discussing the latest episode of The Walking Dead on a Monday morning. Dr. Applegate advises many campus clubs and coordinates the Venango College Writing Center. She has most recently published essays on Southern and Appalachian literature/culture in The North Carolina Literary Review, Mississippi Quarterly, West Virginia History, and Pennsylvania English.