Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ubiquity of Sparrows

On April 27, 2009, the poet Craig Arnold went missing on the Japanese island of Kuchinoerabujima, where he was working on a book on volcanoes. He was forty-one years old. Arnold's first book of poems, Shells, was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1998, and his second, Made Flesh, was published last year by Copper Canyon Press. “A Ubiquity of Sparrows” is one of two poems by Arnold that appears in the Summer 2009 issue of The Paris Review.

A Ubiquity of Sparrows

A certain traveler who knew many continents was asked what he found most remarkable of all. He replied: the ubiquity of sparrows.
—Adam Zagejewski

Sparrow who drags a footlong crust of bread behind him

Sparrow whose head is pecked bald from so many quarrels

Sparrow who cocks her head to one side       as if doubtful
Sparrow who follows every flick of your hands moving

Sparrow who spies from far off the flag of a shaken tablecloth

Sparrows dashing to any spot where sparrows are gathered

Sparrow beating her wings to haul off a strawberry
Sparrow bandito with black mask and bandanna who robs her

Sparrow the poet's lover keeps close in her lap
to make him jealous       nipping her finger hard       harder

Sparrow chasing a papery butterfly       flapping and snapping
the butterfly each time impossibly escaping
the sparrow savage       the sparrow persistent       is there no mercy

Sparrow chick pinfeathered       hunched on the window ledge

Sparrow roasted over a piece of bread to catch the entrails

Sparrow whose feet barely sway the twig of a willow
who leaps into the air with the smallest of leaf-shivers

Sparrow the color of dust and mud and dry grass-stems

Sparrows kept on the wing by farmers banging saucepans
kept flying until they drop       a soft heap of bodies

Sparrow who says cheap       sparrow who says Philip Philip

Sparrow who keeps the secrets of wistful men and women

Sparrow shot with a pellet gun       sparrow who crackles
under a boy's bootsole       like brown October leaves

Sparrow whose fall from the sky is noticed by what god

Sparrow who squats in the bluebird's nest       in the martin houses
who moves in with a gang of thugs and there goes the neighborhood

Sparrow who shot Cock Robin and later was hanged like a thief

Sparrow astray in the airport       tracked by the one-eyed guns

Sparrow said to have brought the English unto belief

Sparrow who came to the king's hall in the midst of a snowstorm
fluttering in through one window and out of another

Sparrow do you imagine more than a little warm
rambunctious life between two corridors of nothing

the one forever before       the one forever after

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