A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2008, vol 4 no 3

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Joanna Preston



Old towels spread over the upholstery, a box of tissue nearby. She knew who we were, despite the pain killers they'd given her. I kept stroking her wings, telling her I was sorry, sorry, so sorry.


I carried her in. She was light - barely any heavier than when we'd first brought her home a year ago. I set her down on the surgical table. A gas mask, for a bird. Strange contraption. She accepted it, as she'd accepted almost everything else. I stopped trying to blot my tears.

Then it was time to lay her on her side. Blue fluid in the syringe - blue. Like the waters around Great Keppel Island. A surreal vision of Delilah on holiday with us, scritching in white sand. The underside of her wing, the ulnar vein - I'd always wondered where it was. Needle in, draw back, blood, yes, slowly, ease the barbituate in.

And wait.

For the convulsion, the beating wings, the arching back. For the sudden squawk that you dread and know is only reflex, but which makes you want so desperately to say hush, oh, hush, I'm sorry, I've changed my mind, stop, undo this - too late, too late, already too late, by minutes, hours, days.

driving home—
swaddled on my lap
her absence

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