The last dusky seaside sparrow
disappeared three years
before everyone agreed
they weren’t coming back,
only hand crafted half dusky hybrids,
half seaside scott, half childless child of lab,
evolved for no geography.
The Merrit Island natives, set aside by a dark coat,
fading yellow strip above each eye,
song called out across the shoreline
even after the females had drowned away—
when you’re a species of bird
who lives its whole life
within a mile or two, what else do you do
when someone floods your home off the island,
leaves you picking damp twigs
from a sagging nest,
grooming for mates no longer alive?
I know what it’s like to catch yourself
in prayer at the bathroom sink,
wondering if it’s an impulse
too programmed to quiet.
When there were only five birds left
researchers wrapped colored bands
around their wriggling feet,
and set them free across the island.
The orange banded dusky, blind in one eye,
wandered eight unchartered miles
through the leveling marsh
in search of someone who knew what he was trying to say
when he cried out through the heavy salt air.
Ilana Bean is a senior finishing an undergraduate degree in Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration at Virginia Commonwealth University with minors in Biology and Creative Writing.
Illustration by Paul Hostetler