In a flash, fist-sized, feathered,
the desperate sparrow flings itself,
trapped, across the dank

basement. A common problem --
a colony of chatty birds perched
at the chimney's warm edge

when one, overcome by
monoxide fumes, tumbles down
the flue's tin length and lands,

thumping itself awake
against the cocked damper to spill
with dignity shot onto the furnace's

hard mesa, where, coming to
in its dim new jail, peeping companions
fading memories in its feathered brain,

its terrible thrashing of wings
and frantic twitters signal
for me (downstairs to wash

the week's basket of dirty clothes)
a sign. A sign, for sure, though
what this frightened flying shadow

portends, I can't decide.
One less bird in the world,
the landlord grumbles when I

explain the problem. While the owner
tries to find an agent to control
this unexpected critter, I put out

a lake of water in a china bowl
and on a plate alongside a slice
of bread torn apart like an old god

to propitiate the life that sails
above the cellar floor and weeps, broken-
hearted, for the safety of the open air.