Once, he landed briefly on the kitchen scales when I was baking. He weighed less than half a cup of sugar. How could someone so small be so much?

It’s years since he died but it’s always this bird I’m asked about, this one who exercises fascination, as if there was some truth in the superstitions surrounding magpies and in this random connection, there could have been the key to a mystery of kinds. It’s almost as if he might have been frightening. The only thing that was, was the knowledge of his intellect.

Our connection was random – he fell out of a tree and I picked him up. It was the usual bargain: freedom or death. He lived five times or so longer than he would have done in the wild. I can’t know if the bargain felt worth it for him.

He was of notable beauty, but they all are. One of his feathers, black and iridescent blue, still turns on a thread in the warmth above the lamp on my desk.

His life was one of calculation and endeavour, of learning and watching, remembering and trying. He could be aggressive. He measured thoughtfully, practised speech with precise and prolonged dedication. Once when I wept, he flew to me, huddled against me, muttering softly.


Swine
Loggerheads