The diet of a cedar waxwing, a crested passerine residing year-round in parts of Canada and the United States, is predominantly fruit-based—and by consuming enough red berries, the bird can develop orange tail tips, which vary from a natural yellow colour. Occasionally, cedar waxwings digest berries that have fermented, and they consequently become drunk.
a plump cedar waxwing from Waterboro, Maine,
dreamed of changing his tail feather tips
from dandelion petals
to autumn smoketree leaves.
And so, he gorged on honeysuckle fruit
and clusters of ripened mountain ash berries,
gulping down orbs of red severed flesh
and singing songs of fall towards the sky.
But the juices had fermented,
and their vertiginous molecules
seeping through his gizzard
and corrupting cells and blood.
He stumbled on his moulting perch
and, fluttering, he fell,
tumbling towards a twirling ground
strewn with bleeding compost—
And that is where I found him,
by a winterberry tree,
nestled amongst the rot
and scarlet colours of decay.
His breast was clawed and tattered
and his bowels were exposed,
dangling from their shredded frame
in glistening pulp-stained heaps.
His eyes were empty sockets
and his wings were rent and chewed,
but the feathers of his tail
were a bright and brilliant mess,
smeared with crimson splendour
like a small brush caked with paint
or the rudder of a plane reflecting sunlight.