What descended from the clouds
to alight on the antlers, curling its talons around
a sturdy prong?
Did the beast below ever rear or shake its head
in an attempt to evict the uninvited lodger?
Or did he just stand there, rigid, tolerant,
waiting for the guest to grow bored and flap away?
If so, it waited in vain,
and in time the eggs began to drop.
His skull was not soft, and yolk dripped
into his eyes, clogged his ears.
Albumen crusted into a doily on his scalp.
The bird keened for its spilled family
but gripped its perch even tighter.
Its cries rattled the thicket, made
the boulders tremble among the thorns.
Years passed. Leaves covered
the forest floor. The grazing paths
grew overgrown with brambles.
The beast's skull lay beside a stone
in the underbrush, one dry socket
empty, while in the other,
a tiny serpent curled in sleep.
The claws, with nothing attached to them,
still gripped the antler branching far above.