|Jul/Aug 2013 Poetry Special Feature|
Digital artwork by Adam Ferriss
The Sparrow's Funeral
Since my mother's death, I am the only
one who remembers the sparrow's funeral.
I was in grade school then, no older than eight
or nine, and on many days, I went with my mother
when she took Chewy, our Miniature Schnauzer,
for his morning walk. When we returned that day,
there was a sparrow lying spread-winged
on the lawn. It wasn't quite dead at first,
and then it was. I ran into the house and lay
sobbing, as if making a fuss might spur
the sparrow back to life. I don't remember
now how my mother convinced me to go
to school with this new knowledge that death
could be sudden and public, but when we
stepped out again to the porch from the night-
fall of the dim house to the sudden bright
activity of day, the dead bird was
surrounded by a circle of living ones.
They were not quite singing and not quite chirping.
We watched without a word. And shortly,
as if by command, they all fell silent
at once, as if they had said all that they
needed to say, all that the circumstance
demanded, and they took to the sky
in a sudden dark cloud of small birds.
I didn't tell a single one of my friends
at school what I has seen, and my mother,
at home, must have disposed of the sparrow,
for the lawn was clear when I returned.
I picture her putting on rubber gloves
and picking up the bird. I like to think
that she set him in a shoe box, dug a hole
beneath the yellow forsythia to be his grave,
but it is more likely that she placed him
in a paper bag and put him gently in the trash
before going inside the house again
to wash her hands with hot water, walking
the dog at noon and again at three,
shortly before I would be coming home.