This morning I saw a dead bird on 52nd Street. It was lying on its back on the sidewalk in between Park and Madison Avenues, in front of a Duane Reade Pharmacy. Its feet were in the air. At first I wasn’t sure if it was dead. It looked like it was just dozing, sunning its chest and staring at the sky, much like a person does at the beach.
It wasn’t a New York bird, black and greasy and fat off of restaurant waste and dropped hot dog buns. It looked more like a bird you would see out in the country, in the hills of New Hampshire or Vermont, with brown wings, soft-looking tan feathers on its belly, and a tiny patch of red right on top of its head. It seemed like a bird that would sing. It made me realize that pigeons don’t sing.
I only saw the dead bird for a second as I walked by, my heels clipping fast against the pavement. I didn’t stop because I wanted to get a cup of coffee before heading into the office. At the corner, I waited at a light and wondered how the bird had died. It looked so perfect I thought maybe it had just dropped, like a stone or a tear, out of the sky, but most likely it had flown into a window.
I thought about ducking into a store and asking for a shoebox. I could pick up the bird, using a tissue as a shroud, and put it inside—a cardboard casket. Then I could walk to the park and bury it at the base of a tree or under a leafy bush. I could use a stick to dig the hole, scraping and scratching into the earth until it was deep enough. I could leave something behind as a marker, an earring or a shiny silver coin.
I imaged going to work, my stockings shredded and my nails caked with dirt, and telling my boss that I was late because I had to conduct a bird funeral. But then the light changed, and I crossed the street.