I nearly step on its body,
the small bird that the wave pushes rolling and tumbling ungracefully
as a watery offering toward my feet on the shore.
I see more as I walk, first five in close proximity
and then six, seven, nine, twelve dead birds in open shore-graves
until I can count no more and turn back to the cottage, weeping.
I recognize them as the swallows that nest in holes dug into the sandy cliffs
that form too close to the water, cliffs which were battered by yesterday’s storms
and the wild waves and wind that erode the shoreline.
I wonder if these dead are mourned—if the birds I see now
darting along the beach as I walk home are searching, frantic,
for the holes they built not long ago to nest their young?
My footprints disappear as quickly as I leave them,
the depressions in the sand fill instantly and without fanfare;
a reminder of my own impermanence and the lake’s dispassion.
There is no rescuing to be done;
I can pluck a struggling moth or two from death for today, and dry my tears.
The lake carries on.