It happened last year. Every pane exited its sash, floated up outside the house, and hovered in the air. About thirty yards up—far, but close enough not to be thought runaways. Each rotated in location above the window sash it came from. They formed a shadow house above our own, but populated with birds, not two middle-aged people.
At first, descending and ascending birds flew into the glass, like the hawk that hit my office window last week, thud and a long fall, the cartoon shaking of its head and feathers and then relaunch. The birds grew accustomed to the windows and used them as ledges. Territories were established. There was a sparrow window and a squawking scrub jay window. A gilded flicker took a pane. The squirrels were beside themselves with envy.
At dusk the windows lowered, sidling down to avoid branches and eaves, dumping their stray feathers and poop, the hulls of seeds, all the detritus of the day. The windows clicked into place, dirtier each time.
Other birds came, gulls; pigeons, of course; and mourning doves; then exotics like escaped parakeets and huge birds: egrets and sand hill cranes. The heavy birds weighed down the panes like ballast in a ship. They’d quickly balance or the windows sent them plummeting.
There weren’t enough windows to hold all the birds that came. Some had to perch in trees. When nesting season started, they all moved: to the crooks and knees of the trees, herons to the chimney, cranes to the damp area at the back of the yard. The females sat vigilantly while the males brought worms and grubs. One by one the windows were abandoned and one by one the windows failed to rise—they stayed in their sashes. We didn’t know whether to be sad the floating disappeared or glad we lived in an avian nursery—coos surrounded us and baby birds leapt to fly.
Cathy Barber’s work has been published recently in Right Hand Pointing, Barefoot Review, and The Rio Grande Review and is forthcoming in The Cancer Poetry Project anthology. She recently completed an MFA in poetry from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and holds an MA in English from California State University East Bay. She is a past president of the board of California Poets in the Schools and is a reader for Tattoo Highway. Her humor blog, Is It Just Me, can be found at Is It Just Me. She lives in San Mateo, California.