Bowerbird

by Gabrielle Griffis

In my grandmother’s house I found ferns, dried and preserved from her wedding bouquet. She saved zinnia seeds and planted them in a seasonal loop. A good person’s house decays as if they were never there. We inhabit one home to another like shells. In the living room I found books about fungi. The pages were full of wine caps and destroying angels. She hung holy basil and fennel from rafters. She painted sunflowers and foxgloves on the walls. In the cabinet were envelopes full of seeds, a camera, binoculars, pens, and empty greeting cards. Her clothing was made of cotton and wool. On the mantle was a lamp, candle sticks, quartz, cormorant feathers. In the bedside table were dream journals. She wrote she was looking at a spiderweb in a windowsill, a woman in a bathtub. A man stood over her in the darkness, his face full of sorrow. She wandered wetlands and hills, had a basement drawer full of bones, and an orange bottle of alprazolam. Vinegar solvents, baking soda, lemon oil. Mason jars full of rose buds and lavender. I made spearmint tea in an iron tea kettle and fingered a naturalist’s portrait of a cephalopod on the piano. The jar of colored pencils was old, the banjo was worn. Sparrows waited on the doorstep for birdseed my grandmother told me to spread. Moss crawled through cracks in brick. I watered her wilting plants, waiting for the funeral home to carry her away. The gas stove turned on, warming candyleaf and hibiscus. A discarded drawing of a deer, yellowed with age read: panic panic panic. I opened a book from a cedar shelf full of phases of the moon. Her last breath lingered in the bedroom. A storm glass predicted rain. Men wheeled her through doorways, a metallic whine, a click, a sheet. Fallen leaves, milkweed floss floated in the air. Her dog whimpered as the hearse disappeared from the driveway.

Author's Note

A plastic string strangled a sparrow next to my door. They were living in a bird nest shaped like a hat. Another bird nearby used a piece of plastic as a windshield. There are a few major bird nest types: burrow, cavity, cup, mound, platform, scrape, sphere. Birds don't always distinguish between synthetic and organic building material. People create nests too that often leave imprints of life after death.

Gabrielle Griffis is a multimedia artist, writer, and musician. Her fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from Wigleaf, Split Lip Magazine, Monkeybicycle, XRAY Literary Magazine, Necessary Fiction, Gone Lawn, Okay Donkey, and elsewhere. She works as a librarian on Cape Cod. You can visit her website at gabriellegriffis.com.

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