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  • Writer's pictureJill Jepson


I work long into the night making the birds, sewing the slender feathers with fine thread, knitting the tiny hearts, the miniature lungs. When one is finished, I take it to the cliff and hold it in my palm until it wakes up, blinking the glossy black pebbles of its eyes. It will shiver and rise onto uncertain legs, but once the blue fills its brain, it will open its wings and fly.

These days, many of them are broken. My hands are no longer steady when I tie off the ends, and sometimes the birds’ hearts beat irregularly, or not at all. Some of my birds flounder when they try to soar. Not remembering how to fold their wings when they raise them and open them wide when they bring them down, they topple to their deaths. Once I made a bird who could only fly in circles. Around and around it flew, unable to stop, unable to land, until it died of exhaustion and thirst. Some never wake up at all, but the saddest are the ones who awaken but cannot remember who they are in the world.    

The people in town scorn me as a do-nothing. They shoot my birds without caring, roast them, dress them with herbs, make gravies from their sweet bodies, suck on their precious bones, as if they exist for no other reason. They stalk my birds with dogs and guns. They force the tender bodies into cages. 

Still, I rise in the cool dark and listen for the voice that tells me: thrush, quail, kite, leghorn, or yellow-rumped warbler. Down, bristle, filoplume. Talons or webs. Beak and bill. What else can I do? I didn’t ask to be the maker of birds, any more than the birds asked to be created to fly and perish. I doubt they are ever grateful. They soon forget the smell of my skin. They shake off the gravity that bound them to me, for a moment.


Jill Jepson is the author of Writing as a Sacred Path and Women’s Concerns: Twelve Women Entrepreneurs of the 18th and 19th Centuries, and the editor of No Walls of Stone: An Anthology of Literature by Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Writers. Her work has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, A Woman’s Path: Women’s Best Spiritual Travel Writing, Gordon Square Review, and other literary journals.


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