Diane Lockward

Thinking Like a Buddhist


Among the nasturtiums, a dead grackle, its feathers

obsidian in sunlight. Something moves like a shadow—


the busy work of flies, green with iridescent wings.

They dig in like Vikings into a suckling pig. The bird’s


dead so he doesn’t care, but I want to smash those flies

that have no respect for the recently fallen, and I


want to know how this particular bird happened to fall.

Did he plummet mid-flight when his time was up?


Had he flown like an idiot into a window, bounced off,

and plopped into my nasturtiums? The only other dead


birds I’ve ever seen were at the bottom of a cage—

parakeets I’d neglected in my youth—or robins my


hubristic cat carried home as gifts. I think of the paucity

of dead birds, and I wonder, Where do birds go to die?


Why isn’t the earth littered with wrens, their wings folded,

eyes like glass beads? Why has no jogger ever been


pelted with deceased sparrows? Shouldn’t dead crows

be blocking the entrance to the Shop-Rite, blue jays lying


on highways? How do birds arrange their deaths in places

so obscure no one ever finds the bodies, like those corpses


dumped by mobsters into vacant lots and construction sites?

And why the desire for anonymity in death? Such are my


thoughts as I stand in my garden among blossoms of orange

and red, witness to this mountainless sky burial, the green


iridescence of hundreds of wings, the mad flutter of hunger,

the frenzied dance of thieves come to ransack a mansion.


Diane Lockward is the author of The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop (Wind Publications, 2013) and three poetry books, most recently Temptation by Water. Her previous books are What Feeds Us, which received the 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, and Eve’s Red Dress. Her poems have been included in such journals as Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Gwarlingo, and The Writer’s Almanac.