As I was driving home from a funeral in rural Illinois, I saw many Red-winged Blackbirds perched on reflectors near the highway that I was travelling on. I could hear their iconic song and it reminded me of the birdsong described in Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Slaughterhouse Five.
The phrase “poo-tee-weet” is repeated throughout the novel and represents the sound of the birds singing. By the end of the narrative, the protagonist realizes that the war has ended and it is now quiet enough to hear the birds. The birds’ song is all there is left to say about all the senseless death.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I lost many neighbors and family members. Some died of COVID-19 and others died from other illness. The world watched as George Floyd was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin.
Some days, when faced with the insurmountable cruelty of police violence in my country and a disease that killed millions of people around the world, all I have is the beauty of the birds singing.
Two color linoleum block print on mulberry paper