Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960


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in Western Literature

An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

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Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


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Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible, 1998


Death of Methuselah,
African Gray Parrot

Death of Methuselah, African Gray Parrot

Emulp Der Eno. So much depends on the single red feather I saw when I stepped out of the latrine.

It is early morning now, rooster-pink sky smoky air morning. Long shadows scissoring the road from here to anywhere. Independence Day. June thirtieth.

Does anyone here know about new freedom? These women squatting, knees wide apart in their long wrapped skirts, throwing handfuls of peppers and small potatoes into hissing pans over cook-fires? These children defecating earnestly or weakly, according to their destiny, in the bushes? One red feather for celebration. No one yet has seen it but me.

When Miss Dickinson says, " Hope is the thing with feathers," I always think of something round a ball from one of the games I will never play stuck all around like a clove-orange sachet with red feathers. I have pictured it many times Hope! wondering how I would catch such a thing one-handed, if it did come floating down to me from the sky. Now I find it has fallen already, and a piece of it is here beside our latrine, one red plume. I celebration I stooped down to pick it up.

Down in the damp grass I saw a red shaft of another one, and reached for it. Following the trail I found first red and then the gray: clusters of long wing feathers still attached to gristle and skin, splayed like fingers. Downy pale breast feathers in tufted mounds. Methuselah.

At last it is Independence Day, for Methuselah and the Congo. O Lord of the feathers. Deliver me this day. After a lifetime caged away from flight and freedom. After long seasons of slow preparation for an innocent death, the world is theirs at last. From the carnivores that would tear me, breast from wishbone.

Set upon by the civic cat, the spy, the eye, the hunger of a superior need, Methuselah is free of his captivity at last. This is what he leaves to the world: gray and scarlet feathers strewn over the damp grass. Only this and nothing more, the tell-tale heart, tale of the carnivore, None of what he was taught in the house of the master. Only feathers, without the ball of Hope inside. Feathers at last at last and no words at all.





Adrienne Nater, 2008

2008 Adrienne Nater. All rights reserved.