At the beginning of the poem "Still Life with Birds, Extinct" by Wendy Mitman Clarke, the narrator catalogues species that gather their dead to them, including the Carolina parakeet, dolphins, and elephants.
The narrator then relates that no live birds are attending to the dead birds that she sees within a museum display. Next to one of Audubon's paintings, the narrator sees "six dead birds" that were used as models for the work. She longs to hold one in her hands, but the glass holding them prevents her from touching them. She uses the vivid simile "lifeless as an old woman’s misplaced gloves" to describe these dead birds. The act of looking through the glass and yearning to touch the birds inside but failing to be able to do so symbolizes her loss. She looks at a display that describes still life as "an act of intimacy," which is ironic, as she is separated from the birds inside the glass.
At the end of the poem, the narrator wonders why, if still life is an exercise in intimacy, she can't reach out to the "homesick leaves" and gather a chestnut in the tree outside the museum. In this way, she connects with the tree, which has become personified as a mourner. She then says that she wants to reach out to "you," a second-person character who might represent someone she has lost and is grieving over. With this last line, she becomes connected to the tree (as they are both mourners), and she connects the birds she can't touch to someone she has lost. The birds inside the glass become an extended metaphor for someone she has lost and can no longer reach.