by Rio Tomlinson
A handsome little finch rests on the ledge of a dirt-crusted window, pane ajar to let the breeze blow inside. Its yellow plumage with black dipped wings rustles lightly with the wind. In its beak, the sole sunflower seed is held onto by the tip.
A goldfinch visited my grandmother before she passed. She would tell me how lovely its song was, or how her hands had fed it biscuit crumbs. She named him Sansa, short for Sansa Rimba. His coos like a thumb piano, giving him his name. I grew to love goldfinches after her stories. Sansa would speak to me through my grandmother, tales of the past. Tales of golden, champagne stars, dripping from the sky like bowls of butter. Japanese cherry blossoms linger in the winds, swirling in memory and delight. The scents of midsummer dreams and sounds of crickets, clicking their wings and echoing into the open air. Sansa. A handsome little finch.
Through my grandmother, Sansa speaks. Stories of pirates racing the shores, voyaging the Caribbean for gold. Memories of fetching a chicken for dinner in Africa. Passports enveloped in stamps from her travels. The tales tinkering from my grandmother’s tongue like fingers, agile, plucking at the finger-piano keys.
On my ninth birthday, I was gifted a finger piano of my own. It had been carved out of a coconut shell. Little turtles had been delicately edged into the wood with a small carver knife. I had once used a carver knife with my grandmother. She wanted to teach me to carve from wood. With my shaky, anxiety-riddled fingers I had missed the wood and sliced open the pale flesh of my hand. Blood had gushed out and my face flushed with fear and disgust. She had wrapped my hand with a terry cloth soaked in some antibacterial. The injury left no scar, only a stained memory.
Sansa would bring his friends to visit my grandmother. Two goldfinches turned into five, and from five finches to eight. Each day they would bring her gifts; Auburn leaves dripping with glossy dew, acorn caps fit for the heads of fairies, twigs wrapped in silky spider webs, or stray flower petals. My grandmother kept a box filled with these treasures. In return, she would lay pine nuts and sunflower seeds on her windowsill. On a special occasion, she would spoil them with a drusy honeycomb or leftover yarn from her finger knitting. She treated me like a little finch on occasions. When I was small, upon every visit she would give me a unique old-fashioned candy. Some days it would be decadent ribbon candies, other days it would be candy buttons embellished with licorice spots. When I was younger, I hated those candies. She had always let them get stale or kept them in a suitcase buried in her doll collection. I currently find myself ordering these same candies, reliving the memory.
On a cool July evening, the 19th to be exact, and expected, yet an unusual sense of whim and angel hair floated in the air. My grandmother was sitting in her satin-sheeted bed, dressed in her favorite purple button-up and clay-colored pants. She sat, toying with her wedding band, breathing the oxygen from her medical tank. She looked to the sky, to the stars. Smiling, she spoke four words, “What a lovely night”. The goldfinches had flown to my grandmother’s window, carrying a chorus of heavenly voices on their tails.