Here, the Sparrows Were, All Along

Every minute or so, a hallelujah
dies in someone’s mouth. Every minute or so, a gunshot.
            A ceasefire. A tire shreds

                        on the highway, & pieces flit like sparrows
across the sky. Silly me. I thought
                                                we were here to live.

            The garden’s hallelujahs: tulips & rhododendrons, alive
in the ground. We expect so much
                                    of life. Once, I was a child. Then, a child

                        was locked inside me. Now, a different
country claims us. Tie my hands
            to the wind. Strip my mouth of any country

                                                that doesn’t fit. Sorrow the sparrow’s
steel cord & textile torso. Its irrational wings.
                                    The problem with flying is most people

                        settle for land, no matter how often
we are unloved by land.
                                    Rewind the centuries:

                        before planes, the accidents of a gun,
or mouth, or gentle morning, how many people
                                    believed they could fly? Breaking gravity,

            what names did they cry when they took that first step
away? Listen to me. I’m telling you
                                                 what only the wind knows—

here, the sparrows were, all along. Nailed
to their species. Alive, or not
alive. Sometimes, not alive at all.

Originally published in Four Way Review. Copyright © 2017 by Chelsea Dingman. Used with the permission of the author.