Ruby

One day
I found a bucket of something syrupy and clear
by the garage, and inside
was a cardinal,
face down, sticking out
oddly with none of a bird’s grace,
a pretty, slimy ruby glistening,
half-unearthed from its tomb;
yes, that white bucket was its oasis,
heaven beneath a hot Texas sun, a clear
choice for a sweet drink
before heading home,
and as it stopped to drink
it had to think,
“How lovely,”
while it delicately perched,
its head descended, its beak—
forced shut, was hushed,
its body—
tumbling after into afterlife,
found no way to sing, no strength to fly,
and I still wonder about those final moments,
whether
its jeweled wings beat valiantly against death,
or whether
it accepted its fate
in silent contemplation,
or whether
it was even dead yet.