the northern tits

A SOLITARY BIRD appears, singing a sonorous song from the branch of a tree. She is wild red all over and speckled with silver and dashes of gold. They call her the great northern tihane or tit. She is indigenous to these parts. There are pieces of the world in her song, including pieces of you, the pieces of you that you give away so generously. These are just notes in her song. She stands on the branch and sings. At night, I take the bike out and encounter Sandra, who is riding home to her country estate on a white bicycle. We decide to ride along together, along the fields of rapeseed and strawberry patches, the sunset glowing like furnace embers behind the tree line. At the manor house, football is on the television, and the parents are awake, regaling each other with stories, laughter, and wine. They offer me peppermint tea and solidarity. Later I ride home through the black, straight down cemetery row, with its ancient trees hovering, planted neatly in the days of the Old Regime. The blood orange sun tucks into the horizon, preparing for its morning jaunt. I keep waiting for a frosty apparition or sinister phantasm to appear from behind some stone — an old baron perhaps, or matron of the old estate — someone to scold me for living an imperfect destitute life, for having a sordid, prurient, desperate mind. I keep waiting and I’m scared. I am scared to be alone in the dark on cemetery row. I’m waiting to be borne up into the air by some Baltic German poltergeist. But no ghosts appear to me. All is black and mostly silent out here in the night. The only noise comes from my wheels on the road and the northern tits perched on the boughs of the trees, burbling and chattering and singing away.

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