Reflections on Henry

Bird flying

We lost Henry on Sunday, my wife and I,

Our hearts fractured as he took off

More than a bird, than an African Grey

Her companion since childhood

They sprouted together,

blossoming into adulthood

She travelled the world, he waited for her

She fell in love, I spent years earning his trust


“Henry comes first,” she told me

So I whistled along to his tune,

brought him peanuts, fresh fruit

He laughed, mocked, bit,

crashed date nights, pooped on my shoes

When I asked for her hand,

he gave his blessing, to my surprise,

just as long as we didn’t leave him behind


Henry moved in with us, my adopted Grey

Over time, I became a member of his flock

We exchanged daily pecks,

beak to nose, nose to beak

Our hearts were full, even as a stroke

weakened his, his spirit never declined

Growing more fragile over months, we cared

for him, administering food, medicine, aid


Last night, his heart began to give way,

becoming infantile, child-like

in her arms, wrapped in a blanket

I looked on beside them as she made peace

“You have to go now,” she said

Her assertive words pierced my chest

as I watched her say goodbye to her best friend,

her first love, letting him go, his first solo flight.


Raj Tawney is a poet, essayist and journalist in New York. His work has appeared in New York Magazine, MIT’s Undark Magazine, The Ecologist and many other publications around the world. He is a featured poet in The Iowa Review’s 2020 National Poetry Month series. You can visit him at