Dylan Brennan

Kingfisher Haibun

My kingfisher died. I couldn’t bear to see him rot. So, I followed the wisdom of the day and kept him dry, placed him in a box. I stuffed the box into my wardrobe. It sat there for years behind grey banks of old jeans with turned-up hems where dust, soil, shards of twigs accumulated. You see, if you keep the corpse of a kingfisher in a dry condition it will never decay. If placed in a wardrobe among garments the halcyon bird will ward off moths and preserve your clothes with its pleasant odour. I thought often of adorning his resting place with hydrangea petals or a sprig of eyebright but was worried about moisture and so left his box as it had always been, a drab brown geometry. I would sometimes forget he was there until catching a whiff of that fragrance from the corner like a wicker basket of springtime blossoms from the riverbank, a meandering nosegay that could reach as far as the breakfast table and mingle with the steam from my coffee. I would take him out to show visitors who marvelled at his colours: the front plumage like the setting sun on a rusting trawler and a turquoise glimmer of sea.

All this.
All this to what end.

When he was alive he would land on my wrist and eat the aquatic insects I would gather for him. He once even let me tighten my fingers around his breast to feel the soft mania of his beating heart and we existed together, so very close to the fresh water. Now he is cold and not-living and I am down here with a tiny raft I’ve fashioned from discarded fish bones, twine and dental floss. I place him on the bone-craft and kiss him goodbye, push him away, launch his last journey. The raft takes on water. The process of disintegration has already begun. I stand here with cold circles around my ankles.

a clump of blue feathers
darkens then sinks—my hand
cups a ripple

Dividing his time between Mexico and Ireland, Dylan Brennan writes poetry and prose. He is a recipient of the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary award. His second collection of poetry, Let the Dead (2023), is available now from Banshee Press.