Sparrows, Starlings by Christine Potter

Sparrows, Starlings

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them
is forgotten before God. —Luke 12:6

Consider the tiny hard-eyed birds in the skylight of the shopping mall,
shoe-leather brown, fat on French fries, the cast-off bits of hot dogs, sodden
ends of ice cream cones, and mean as a sore knee—or the ones dining

outdoors with you, bullying their way into croissants and spilled lattes. One
lights on the table two feet from your shopping bag and turns its head right
and then left, puffing its feathers: Give me. A house sparrow, its species now

in decline in its native England. Supposedly loosed upon Central Park in
the nineteenth century by Eugene Schieffelin, who may or may not have been
trying to seed America with every bird mentioned by Shakespeare. Bees

hum in the garbage can beside the only other unoccupied seat. Best to
carry your coffee to the car and drive home, where starlings the color of
oil puddles and stippled at the neck by metallic rainbows shovel seed from

your feeders onto the ground. Descendants of another flock brought here by
the same man, but handsome, sleek as new-sharpened pencils. Nest-robbers,
though. And neither breed protected by U.S. law against human cruelty, not

like other wild birds. Common. Aggressive. Destructive. Weed-creatures.
And yet if you had never before seen wings work you’d forgive them for
being here with the rest of us, the result of our good intentions and folly. As

if they need forgiveness. Great numbers of starlings sometimes fly in the
shapes of wings or even whole birds: undulating murmurations—dark,
shimmering clouds—like songs you can see. The way prayers look to God.

by Christine Potter, May 2021 IBPC Winner


Editor’s Note: Long lines and sentences are interspersed with short, declarative statements, offering the reader moments of introspection in this brilliant philosophical poem.


7 responses to “Sparrows, Starlings by Christine Potter”

  1. Sydney Lea Avatar

    An utterly splendid poem! I love the attention to detail, especially the description of starlings’ look and behavior. Bravissima!

    1. Chris Avatar

      Thank you so much!

  2. chrispygal Avatar

    Thanks, Sydney!

  3. Lucie Winborne Avatar
    Lucie Winborne


  4. addacat Avatar

    Love this!

  5. Bob Bradshaw Avatar
    Bob Bradshaw

    Gorgeous…especially that last stanza. Great last line:

    The way prayers look to God.

  6. crsunde Avatar

    Love birds. Love your informative, thoughtfully crafted poem

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