Abandoned so long ago their very domestication seems a myth: flying rats, they call them, trash birds. But neoteny can’t be so easily unwound—abandoned pets go feral, not wild, and some part of the deep structure of their bodies cries out for the old communion, the hand that feeds, the voice that smiles.

Fearless, they live near us, in the artificial cliff faces of our cities, even as everything eats them. They were bred for meat, for easy digestibility, and not for durability. They lose toes and feet to errant human hairs, build useless nests out of unwoven grass, drink dumpster water, warm themselves on third rails, huddle for some remembered warmth on the cold bronze of the city founders.

In the parks, they descend on every friendly stranger, eager to please, happy to be remembered. In the buildings that still bear their name, the sound of flowing water, quiet music, the cremated remains of the dead; bird song from other birds.