Sparrows by Bill Glose

When baby sparrows tumbled from our eaves
onto soft clover, my sisters and I rescued
the brown dollops fragile as fluff
we blew from dandelions to make a wish.

………………….Pale downy plumage of the black-throated sparrow
………………….reflects harsh light of the desert sun while
………………….grassland sparrows—sharp-tailed and seaside—
………………….skulk through marshland thickets, choosing
………………….to hide from prying eyes. Sparrows adapt
………………….to any environment, some living entire lives inside
………………….warehouses or in coal mines half-a-mile underground.

Eyes closed, heartbeats visible through velvet skin,
hungry beaks gaping for milk-soaked bread.
We eye-droppered food and swaddled a shoebox with tissue,
makeshift incubator warm beneath the bulb of a swing-arm lamp.
This moment closest to God I would ever be.

………………….The vesper sparrow sings at dusk from depressions
………………….in the earth; the chipping sparrow feeds sky daylong
………………….from evergreens with strings of musical chips.
………………….The American tree sparrow, mute through winter,
………………….saves its song to proclaim an end to its
………………….southern siesta, releasing pent-up trills
………………….like the high-pitched tinkling of piano keys.

Our lone surviving sparrow (the other two found rigid
the same morning) chirped wildly every time
we reached inside its shoebox, tufted wings flapping,
sharp beak exploring the nubbins of our fingers

………………….Just a few decades ago, house sparrows crowded
………………….Britain’s skies and parks and shadowed nooks,
………………….sweet song mingling with the cough and belch
………………….of factories and rumbling trucks. At times,
………………….colonies would black the sky in swooping swarms,
………………….air vibrating with thrum of a billion beating wings.

Perched on a proffered index finger, tiny head
swiveling, black beaded eyes exploring
the bedroom, our sparrow flew, when nudged,
to a bedpost or an open dresser drawer,
soft drumbeat of fluttering wings, flash
of white underbelly like a streak of light.

………………….I read somewhere that London lost three quarters
………………….of its sparrows in the 1990s. Lost, like a set
………………….of misplaced keys, not perished, or extinguished,
………………….though this is surely what was meant.

When, finally, it darted out the hallway window
toward a squat acorn tree in our neighbor’s yard,
we kept the window open days afterwards,
leaning on the sill, waiting for a flitting glimpse
of what we once thought ours.

gray and white sparrow perched in reeds
Savannah Sparrow by Susan Young. CC license.

Bill Glose
Bill Glose is a former paratrooper, a veteran, and the author of four poetry collections. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including The Missouri Review, Rattle, The Sun, and Narrative Magazine. He was named the Daily Press Poet Laureate in 2011 and featured by NPR on The Writer’s Almanac in 2017.

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