The Sparrow

- 1925-

Here’s a common sparrow, a bit of a schnorrer
come to celebrate my 88th at
Whole Foods at 10th and Alton in
Miami Beach, a block away from where
my mother lived for 27 years,
the wrong end of Miami Beach then
but now the center; though she can hardly stay
for the party she is so busy with the cheese
which disentangled from the bread and one would
kiss her but she is partial to the bread
and has to fly away so she can eat
in secrecy which is a good enough gift
compared to the knowledge that I was common too
and if I eat from china I would just as soon
eat from paper—or plastic—the difference between
the sparrow and me is I need a solid plate
of some sort—even a leaf—a noble spine
and green in all directions and the smell of the
mother tree everywhere but I am slow now.

More by Gerald Stern

The Dancing

In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture
and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots
I have never seen a post-war Philco 
with the automatic eye
nor heard Ravel's "Bolero" the way I did
in 1945 in that tiny living room
on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did
then, my knives all flashing, my hair all streaming,
my mother red with laughter, my father cupping
his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance
of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum,
half fart, the world at last a meadow,
the three of us whirling and singing, the three of us
screaming and falling, as if we were dying,
as if we could never stop—in 1945—
in Pittsburgh, beautiful filthy Pittsburgh, home
of the evil Mellons, 5,000 miles away
from the other dancing—in Poland and Germany—
oh God of mercy, oh wild God.

Apocalypse

Of all sixty of us I am the only one who went 
to the four corners though I don't say it
out of pride but more like a type of regret,
and I did it because there was no one I truly believed 
in though once when I climbed the hill in Skye
and arrived at the rough tables I saw the only other
elder who was a vegetarian--in Scotland--
and visited Orwell and rode a small motorcycle
to get from place to place; and I immediately
stopped eating fish and meat and lived on soups;
and we wrote each other in the middle and late fifties
though one day I got a letter from his daughter
that he had died in an accident; he was
I'm sure of it, an angel who flew in midair
with one eternal gospel to proclaim
to those inhabiting the earth and every nation;
and now that I go through my papers every day
I search and search for his letters but to my shame 
I have even forgotten his name, that messenger
who came to me with tablespoons of blue lentils.