Because the Sparrows
– by Cathie Desjardins –
The house sparrow is not an obligate commensal of humans
as some have suggested.
Common as pennies, they mob
the feeder, empty it in a day—
nothing left for finches, wrens,
chickadees— birds from the genus
I rush out to chase them, flapping,
absurd, a woman chasing birds
from her feeder. Their nests block
the rain gutters and at 4:30 a.m.
they begin what Yeats called
of a sparrow
in the eaves.
I rail against them till the day
I find one dead beneath the window,
smaller than half my palm,
bead eyes glazed, legs thin
as string, whorled feathers intricate
as Chinese ink brush landscapes.
That day I fly to tend my mother,
a misfit in my kitchen:
the impossible things she’s said to me
are carved on my heart. All the ways
she tries to please seem denials
of what I love, ugly ornaments
for the Christmas tree—
until I have to change
the dressing from her surgery.
Embarrassed, she lies face
down on her sateen bedspread
while I lift the pad to see the maroon
puncture near her backbone,
incision on her softening flesh.
Only then do I see
how wrong I’ve been, becoming
someone to be defended from.
About the Author
Cathie Desjardins’ second book of poems, Buddha in the Garden, is available from Tasora Press in the summer of 2019. Her first book is With Child and her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Cognoscenti, PULSE, and The Christian Science Monitor. She is a gardener and literacy specialist, and has taught at UMass/Boston, UMass/Dartmouth, Suffolk and Lesley Universities, Boston, Cambridge and Arlington Adult Education Centers and Grub Street. She is currently Poet Laureate of Arlington, MA.
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