So a boy finds a sparrow. So he bends down to look at her tiny tufted body prone on the pavement. So he thinks she’s dead, so he nudges her gently with the toe of his boot. So he sees a stirring, a papery flutter of heartbeat beneath her tiny breast. So he picks her up.

The boy’s hand is warm and rough, smells like coconut and motor oil. The sparrow, not knowing of coconuts or motor oil, feels the scent as sweet darkness, oozing into something sick. The sparrow wakes a little in the boy’s sweet dark palm, moves her minikin wings just an infinitesimal amount, just barely. She sings, just barely, so weakly the boy doesn’t hear it.

So the boy bangs through the broken gate of an abandoned garden. So he sets the sparrow on a splintered bench. So he wants to see her better, but the dusk is gathering in brambled shadows in the corners of the garden. So he pulls a lighter from his pocket and flicks the flame above her. So he gets too close. So her feathers are singed, just barely.

The sparrow sings, again. The boy hears her. The boy, not knowing the melodies of sparrows, feels the song as a wanting. He whispers You want to fly, don’t you? You want me to help you fly. The sparrow wriggles, just barely. The boy feels this as a yes.

So the boy prods at the sparrow. So he strokes the soft feathers on her breast. So he holds her wire-thin legs between thumb and forefinger. So he spreads her wings as wide as they will stretch. So the sparrow sings, flutters, as loud as she can, as hard as she can (which is not very hard, not very loud). So the crows come to watch.

The crows alight on the rusted fence. The broken gate squeaks as it swings in the breeze. The crows cock their purple-black heads, fix their beady black eyes on the boy and the sparrow. One crow ca-caw-caw-caws. The boy, not knowing the language of crows or gates, feels the squawks and grates as a keep going. He strokes, prods, holds. The sparrow, not knowing the melodies of gates or crows, feels the screeches and cackles as a solidarity. The sparrow thrashes, sings, as hard as she can as loud as she can with the boy’s rough-warm hands holding, which is not much, which is just barely. The crows, not knowing the hands of boys or the songs of sparrows, feel this as a curiosity. The gate, not knowing, waves to the shadows. The bench, not knowing, splinters.

So the crows cock their heads and squawk. So the shadows turn purple-black as the crows. So the gate shudders and grates. So the brambles grow. So the boy spreads the sparrow’s wings, whispers fly fly fly damn you fly. So the sparrow sings of hands and flames. So something snaps, dark and sweet as motor oil and crow shadows. So she stops stirring.

So the boy, not knowing, feels, just barely.

So the sparrow, not feeling, just barely, knows.

punk poet, beat zinester, small press publisher (more at linktr.ee/rustbeltjessie)