He went to catch sparrows.
Carrying a battered birdhouse
and salted sunflower seed,
he climbed through broken barricades
with the confidence only a four year old can possess.
Using his forearm,
he pushed blonde fluff from his eyes
and peered up into stinging sunlight,
trying to catch a glimpse
of flapping wings against electric wires.
He didn’t bring home any sparrows.
Four days later,
against a concrete wall in a back alley
frequented by strays and vagrants,
you stumbled upon the tiny broken boy.
lips a bright pink,
cheeks a porcelain blue,
he looked as though he was ready
to wake for another day of play,
but when you reached to rouse him–
I remember the feel of his skin.
I expected him to be made of glass
like some doll dressed in blue.
I expected him to be warm.
the memory spills from sleep.
Twelve years old.
Alone in a sullied alley contaminated
with rusted cans, weeds, dog shit, food wrappers.
The echoing of October wind
or was it flapping wings.
when I close my eyes,
I recall the blue of cheeks
and a slight taste of metal in my mouth.
“Sparrows” is previously published in The Fall of the Sparrow (2014).