Catastrophe of Sparrows

For Oran Ryan

I often share my morning meal with birds,
croissants beside a glittering marina
shadowed by the towers. In the words
of Francis, all our civilized patina
cracks before the cold magnificence
of sparrows–we exclude them from our love
at peril of the vilest recompense
of man as well as judgment from above.

It’s harder than a fist. Like Catholic school.
Behind all admonition lies the threat
of metal rulers and a golden rule–
the sorry knuckles bruised, the schoolboy debt
to Baby Jesus paid before the class.
“Exclude them from our love…” Another crumb,
another set of beady eyes. A crass
relationship, all parties cold and dumb.

Those crows contorted Francis’s ideal,
his simple observation of the world.
I know this, yet subconsciously I feel
that all the high-priced bread bits that I’ve hurled
to hoppers on the paving stones redound
to my salvation. Thus the hook is set
in childhood. Thus survival on the ground
is subjugated to a crude vignette

of earthly paradise or paradise
itself. A love ulterior, untrue.
If Francis had a look at this device
I’m sure he’d have no problem seeing through
its central mechanism–politics.
He’d go and dig himself another hole
beneath the shining city’s dirty bricks
and reevaluate the human soul

in light of the supreme triumvirate
of science, government, and industry
that’s taken hold of our novitiate.
Our life on Earth. The stinking ginkgo tree
disgorges yet another breakfast mate.
How strange this sparrow looks. How out of place
beside the Wintergarden’s sunlit gate
of glass, inside this crystal case,

this World Financial Center. Like a cold
medieval souvenir just barely able
to maintain its fearful balance, old
as Francis cowering below the table,
underneath the paving stones. He’s praying.
As am I, with little balls of bread,
Confused about some quid pro quo, delaying
My arrival in the glassworks overhead.

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