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House Sparrows

ISSUE:  Spring 2012

They are here, in the eaves, the clothesline pole,
hayloft—everywhere she looks—and everywhere
she goes they are there before her, in town,
in streetlamps, hooded stoplights, in letters
at the pharmacy, cursive, neon serifs.
She knows they prefer human-made hollows,
though she finds them also in the branches
of evergreens and hawthorns. She entices
the nieces and nephews, whom she dislikes
in equal measure, with a Sunday afternoon’s
escape from themselves, and so they learn
to follow her while she spots a nest, then
knocks it down with the longest pole on the place.
They race to it—small-domed thing—to break it
open like a present, unwrap outer
layers of twigs and roots, tear past the middle
membrane of woven grass, sometimes scraps
of cloth, to find the warm, innermost lining
of feathers. If there is a clutch of eggs,
they have learned to throw them, speckled bluish-
white—warped marbles—against the barn’s wall,
where they explode into a constellation
of watery stars.

If there are hatchlings,
the children, delighted, toss them, one
after the other, into the chicken yard—
where she has despaired most of all the bold
greed with which sparrows steal feed. The chickens,
who have never minded sparrows, fight
each other for this tender-boned, sweet scream
of rarest meat falling into the lot
they will too soon return to keeping, grassless
as a cemetery swept clean of grief.


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