I, Bird

Especial: Diario de la pandemia / dossier / Junio de 2020

Nell Leyshon


It is the month of May and it is early in the morning. I wake and turn my eye and see the world - the sky to the east is lighter than the sky to the west and the new sun is slowly coming up over the end of the earth. Dawn. The singing has started. They are all doing it, on the rooftops, on the telephone wires, up in the sky. All shouting about the rising sun. Now it is my turn so I get up onto my two feet and stand on the edge of my nest. I look about me and open my beak and out it comes. Birdsong. It’s loud, fills the sky. I, Bird, am singing too. And when I have sung the new day into existence, I stretch out my wings, shake them just because I can. And then I shift my body weight forward, feel my two feet lift from the nest, feel myself fall into the air. Ah, here I am. I move my wings this way, that. Up and down. I tip to the left, to the right. As I fly my little eyes look out over it all. They see everything. I circle back, see the building where my nest is, the flat roof with the air conditioning units, silent now the offices are empty. I see the next door building, the street below, empty of cars and people. The early morning sun glints off glass windows. I fly away from the tall buildings, circle the dome of the cathedral, then see the meandering river, a resting silver snake. I fly along it, over each of the bridges, up above the park and the trees which are starting to get their spring leaves, and first blossom. Then to the big house with many windows where the Queen lives. The roads are empty, are long grey lines. Worms. The sky is all mine. The air is clear and there are no white lines in it, no early morning planes coming in to land, for they are all parked at the airport, all lined up, their engines silent. I circle and fly back along the river, past the cathedral, past the tallest glass building, then back round to the art gallery, see the tall block of expensive flats. My wings ache. I approach, land on a balcony and perch; my two feet wrap neatly around the railing. I tip my head to the side and look through the glass. This is what I, Bird, see: There is a big bed and two people sit up in it, heads against pillows. They look out of the vast glass windows at the city. The woman holds a cup in her hand. The man holds a mobile phone machine in his hand. They talk and I can hear what they say for I, Bird, know everything. The woman looks at me and she says, ‘Oh look, a bird.’ The man says nothing. The woman puts down her cup and sighs. ‘The birdsong is so loud in the quarantine.’ The man nods, says nothing. ‘It’s like this whole virus thing is a rewilding experiment,’ she says. ‘There must be more birds this year. They’re never this loud.’ ‘Never.’ ‘And smell the air,’ she says, breathing in. ‘I’ve never smelled it like this. No fumes. It’s so clean.’ ‘It is,’ the man says. (He is still scrolling on his mobile phone machine and isn’t looking up at the clear blue air and isn’t seeing the beautiful bird - me - on his balcony.) ‘You know,’ she says, ‘I think the world is going to change. When we come out of this crisis I think we will start to address climate change and the emphasis on making money above the health and wellbeing of people. I think we will see that extreme capitalism has been a mistake and we will become kinder people.’ ‘Uh-huh,’ the man says. (He isn’t really listening for he is checking the stock market on his mobile phone machine and worrying about the fact that the value of the last shares he bought in a mining company are dropping as heavily as the stones they removed from the land in order to find the precious metals which go into every mobile phone machine.) ‘Are you listening?’ the woman asks. ‘I always listen,’ the man says. ‘I just have so much hope for the future,’ she says. ‘Yep.’ The man puts the mobile phone machine down on the bed covers and picks up his cup of coffee. He holds it in two hands, looks out, sees the beautiful bird (me) on his balcony. ‘Those fucking birds shit everywhere,’ he says. She doesn’t even hear him: she is dreaming about the future race, how they will support each other, how countries will be ruled by benevolent leaders, how people will walk and cycle everywhere and continue to smile as they pass each other in the street. The man drinks his coffee, does a mental calculation. If he gets rid of half of his workers, he can keep his profit margins up. He looks out past me, at the sky beyond. What is it they say? he asks himself. Ah that’s it. Never waste a good crisis. There’s always money to be made in a crisis. I’ve seen enough, heard enough. I turn around, my arse towards them. I lift up my tail feather and release and let out every scrap of shit that I have in my body. It lands wet and sticky on his balcony. The man sees. He leaps out of his bed and spills his coffee all over his expensive white sheets. I laugh. Good. I tip my weight and loosen my hold on the balcony rail. I raise my wings and go and I am up, up. I move my wings this way, that. Up and down. I tip to the left, to the right. As I fly my little eyes look out over it all. I, Bird, see everything. I, Bird, know everything. I know the reason our birdsong is so loud is that there is no competition: no planes, no cars. We’ve always been this loud but humans couldn’t hear us above the noise their own machines made. I fly back across the river, up past parliament where the computer systems are still whirring away, making plans for the great return to normal. I fly up above the silent city then I return to my building, to my nest of broken sticks and moss. I need to make the most of this, the peace, the blue skies, the silence of the air conditioning units, for it won’t last. I, Bird, know everything. I, Bird, have spoken.

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Imagen de portada: Un balcón en San Telmo. Fotografía de audrey_sel, 2007. CC