Issue 90, Winter 1983
Eating the Sparrows
A platter of walnuts, I think.
Shanghai and the banquet is festive.
Strong Chinese brandy and “Campi!”
so we drink to the bottom.
The sparrows drop to my plate, their
tiny drumsticks clamped to their sides,
a nub of wings, a slash of beak. “Eat!”
our host says. My mouth flickers and
swoops in the tall room. Sparrows, why
you should come to me with your
slivers of meat and your songless sky
I don’t know. Nor how you fell, by what
blow or trick, what feast of crumbs.
Who asked for your sacrifice? Do
your deaths cross from famine
onto this plentiful island of friendship?
I watch the host, nimble
over the carcass with pleasure. It is time
to pick up your unlucky sparrow, believe
against your safety. Sparrow,
your message is clear: it is not too late
for my singing.
Guilin/June 17, 1983