My people were Presbyterians and Pentecostals,
Baptists and Methodists and a Mennonite or two,
but that is not why I sleep with my face to the east.
My father's father once told me
that God flings sparrows by the fistful
when He awakens the dawn
and they bring the light on plain, brown wings
shimmering like mica and feldspar.
He would know, my grandfather,
strong and homespun, gone now these many years.
A simple farmer who carried the muddied earth
of Pennsylvania on his boots
and even the best of days
found a hay rack in his work-worn hands.
And then the rows,
those endless tilled rows of farmland
would be waiting when heaven fell hard,
laying dead sparrows at the edge of the meadow.
He would find them at dusk
worn out, storm-beaten, limp as sleep.
I would breathe too much when he told me
that a dying sparrow will cut your heart.
I watched him one evening
press their bodies to the ground
then turn them down with the plow,
the soil winching up, each rotation linking me
to my own fragile existence.
He assured me that Stronger Hands
await to hold them, those tiny, dirt covered birds.
We later tracked the lengthening shadows
back to the house, seeking inlet, the long day over.
I prayed for them, imagining them
rising from the east trying to get home to God,
restless in the soil, fluttering their wings
against the vesper light.