Today's poem is by Robert Cording


A certain traveler who knew many continents
was asked what he found most remarkable
of all. He replied: the ubiquity of sparrows.
          —ADAM ZAGAJEWSKI, Another Beauty

Sparrow: our generic for any of the small brown birds
We find everywhere. A farm field in early April,
Nothing yet green. Or a sidewalk downtown

Edged with February's dirty snow, a scrap
Of paper with someone's name on it
Skittering in a gust of building-tunneled wind.

Sparrows: fussing about in the dirt, washing
Themselves in a gutter's runoff, hanging on
The dry seed head of a winter weed.

Barn, strip mall, field, swamp, college ivy,
Wal-Mart sign: all places to prove their gift for
Survival. Like the poor, they are their own keepers.

Once in Palestine there were so many, two
Could be had for the price of one farthing,
But Jesus said his father knew each one of them,

Just as the hairs on our head were numbered.
Those must have been house sparrows; they were
Fruitful and multiplied because they fed on

The droppings of horses and cattle. Sparrows.
I never learned them well enough. They slipped
In and out of my focus, the color of dust

And dirt, common featured. Field sparrow,
Fox sparrow, song sparrow, swamp sparrow.

It took so much attention to give a name

To them, the way, too often, I see the poor
Only as that, their faces hidden as they lie
Like sacks on grates of vented heat. Ubiquitous.

Common featured. How can they be seen
When they are always in sight? When Jesus
Laid his hands on the faces of the poor,

I'd like to believe he saw them as they wanted
To be seen: each a child who belonged
To somebody, who once had a given name.

Copyright © 2006 Robert Cording All rights reserved
from the Southern Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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