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Norman Darlington

The doorstep is a jumble of debris: clay, straw, twigs. Some moments pass before I notice three baby house martins among the mess, a couple of days old, dead. Up above, almost nothing is left of the nest under the eaves, where the birds rebuild every year. No sign of the parents.

siesta —
the shattering
of a glasshouse pane

An almost imperceptible motion - one of the babies is moving. In fact all three are making tiny slow movements, just this side of death. Picking one up, I feel a sharp nip. When I see the beetle, another falls out of the bird's nib. Dozens of them. The babies are being eaten alive.

Taking the birds into the bush, I end their lives as quickly as possible, and bury them. Never have I become hardened to mercy-killing. At age eleven, I found a sparrow filleted by a cat, still breathing. I tried to shoot it with a .22 at point blank, but kept missing. I couldn't sleep that night. The more of this killing you do, the less panic, the smoother the action, but no less heartache.

My three-year-old says, "Birdy house broken. Poor birdies," every day for two months. Daily I explain the martins have moved to the nest under the neighbour's eaves, but he says, "Birdy house broken. Poor birdies."

so distant
the tolling of the bell

Norman Darlington is a poet and artist living in Wexford, Ireland. His work in several haikai genres is showcased on his Xaiku website, at www.Xaiku.com.

Footnote 1 Martinmas: the feast of Saint Martin on 11 November, traditionally the day when martins migrate.

This haibun was published in Hermitage, Vol. 1, No. 1/2, 2004