By Barbara Crooker
I never learned to tell one from another—
swamp, field, song, vesper—all scraps
of drab: rust, dun, buff, tan. Some streaky-breasted,
some not. We hear the flutter of wings, look up,
then yawn, ho hum, a sparrow. No rush
for binoculars. Like the poor, they are always with us.
Look at them flick and flit in this dry meadow of foxtail,
switchgrass, goldenrod; every leaf, stem, and seedhead
burnished in the dying light. Maybe they are the only angels
we get in this life. But the very hairs on our head are numbered,
and the father knows them all by name. Each sparrow, too, has a song—
no flashy cardinal selling cheer, no sky-blue jay's ironic squawk,
no eponymous chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Just us, the unnoticed, gleaning
what others have left behind, and singing for all we're worth, teetering
on a bit of bracken at the edge of a wild field.
Poet's commentary: Part of the gift of grace that Martin Luther emphasized was how it was freely offered and readily available to every human being. Part of the metaphor implied in this poem is how every bird is important, not only the flashy and the famous, and how each of us is known by name, all of us part of the Kingdom of God.
Barbara Crooker is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Fogelsville, PA, and has been a presenter at the Lutheran Festival of Writing at Luther College. Her work has appeared in such journals and anthologies Christianity & Literature, The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Century, Sojourners, Literature and Belief, Rock & Sling, The Anglican Theological Review, The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Good Poems for Hard Times, and Looking for God in All the Right Places. Among her awards are the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award. She has published eight books of poetry, including The Book of Kells (forthcoming from Cascade Books, 2019).
*This poem first appeared in The Christian Century (2015); used by permission.