a bird death

My dog killed a bird yesterday, maybe.  I went to get the mail outside.  Walking back to the house, I found my dog in the yard with something in her mouth.  I screamed, told her to put it down.  It was a tiny bird – a house wren I think.  Its mouth was moving – opening and closing.  I freaked out.  Ran into the house, not knowing what to do.  When I got back outside, its mouth ceased moving.  It was still.

I dug it a grave in the flower garden with a hand shovel.  I picked it up.  It was so small, so light, so fragile.  Its head flopped from side to side, its neck was broken.

I laid it down in the shallow garden grave.  I covered it, started to cry.

The day after, today, I revisit the event.  I have been told that I make everything that happens to me into a metaphor.  This seems contradictory to my larger project of divorcing illness and disability from the metaphors they have historically been attached to (I follow Susan Sontag and her work that does the same – see her Illness as Metaphor).  So, why do I see this event metaphorically?  And, why, as I have been told, do I see all life-events metaphorically?

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue in their book Metaphors We Live By that we use metaphors to structure our understanding of the world.  So then, can we ever divorce illness from the metaphors we have historically ascribed to it?  Can the dead bird that I buried in my yard ever be experienced as a pure event, separate from the metaphors I attach to it – metaphors I create about its life that connect to mine?

Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard

an excerpt from Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance) by Stephane Mallarmé – to read the entire poem visit this link – it has Mallarmé’s introduction and English translations.

in French:


de la mémorable crise
où se fût
l’événement accompli en vue de tout résultat nul

une élévation ordinaire verse l’absence

inférieur clapotis quelconque comme pour disperser l’acte vide
abruptement qui sinon
par son mensonge
eût fondé
la perdition

dans ces parages
du vague
en quoi toute réalité se dissout

à l’altitude
aussi loin qu’un endroit       fusionne avec au-delà
hors l’intérêt
quant à lui signalé
en général
selon telle obliquité par telle déclivité
de feux
ce doit être
le Septentrion aussi Nord
froide d’oubli et de désuétude
pas tant
qu’elle n’énumère
sur quelque surface vacante et supérieure
le heurt successif
d’un compte total en formation
brillant et méditant
avant de s’arrêter
à quelque point dernier qui le sacre

Toute pensée émet un Coup de Dés
in English – condensed:

NOTHING of the memorable crisis where the event matured, accomplished in sight of all non-existent human outcomes, WILL HAVE TAKEN PLACE a commonplace elevation pours out absence BUT THE PLACE some lapping below, as if to scatter the empty act abruptly, that otherwise by its falsity would have plumbed perdition, in this region of waves, in which all reality dissolves

EXCEPT at the altitude PERHAPS, as far as a place fuses with, beyond, outside the interest signalled regarding it, in general, in accord with such obliquity, through such declination of fire, towards what must be the Wain also North A CONSTELLATION cold with neglect and desuetude, not so much though that it fails to enumerate, on some vacant and superior surface, the consecutive clash, sidereally, of a final account in formation, attending, doubting, rolling, shining and meditating before stopping at some last point that crowns it All Thought expresses a Throw of the Dice

I ask, how can we read this poem in light of the body and its vulnerability to chance?  Disability can happen at any moment.  Accidents happen.  The body, because of an exposure to a virus, can turn on itself and produce autoantibodies – antibodies that attack the self rather than a pathogen.  Are we ever in complete control of our own bodies, or are they, and we, just subjects to chance?