08
Mar
08

A Single Sparrow Singing, a poem

Based on a true story. Yes, I knew her.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The dead dry leaves crunch beneath her tread.
She walks through a winter where no spring will come.
She tries to think, her mind a shattered mirror.
Thoughts kaleidoscope, just beyond her reach.
Even her own reflection warped and broken.
Frozen blistered hands carry the gasoline
Across this cold and silent field. The sun
Defiles the sky like a swollen crimson blood clot.

The stadium is full of happy stupid people.
They have long black and red scarves and rosy cheeks.
They drink hot chocolate, wave their pennants, shout and
Cheer their football team, their high school heroes.
The band parades across the fifty yard line.
The twirling batons flashing in the sun,
The saxophones and drums spew cacophony.

She walks across a field that gives no smiles.
The smell of gasoline fills her frozen nostrils,
Seduces her whirling brain with thoughts of peace.
A cloud descends upon her. She feels nothing.
Dimly aware of the cold and joyless sun
And the weight of the rusty gas can in her hands.

Calm she is now, there is no fear.
No more God, no more guilt,
No more heaven, no more hell
No more penance, no more pain
No more hope, no more loss.

She lifts the gas can high in supplication,
A high priestess on the altar of despair.
The gas cascades and soaks her clothes,
Covering her body like a mephitic sacrament,
Caressing her like a lover, drenching her clothes.
It finds her armpits, breasts, and crotch, and feet.
And still it pours, making her wet all over.
The plastic lighter is no longer in her pocket.
The flint wheel sparks.

Parents wave to sons and daughters on the field
Wishing they still wore their varsity sweaters.
Third quarter. Fourth quarter. Two minute warning.
Game over. Victory! The teams depart the field.

In a field a single vesper sparrow sings
Its lonely song to the slowly dying sunlight
And no wind moves the dead grass and dry leaves.
The swollen sinking sun is smeared with smoke.
An empty gas can lies prostrate on its side.
People are running hard across the frozen earth.
They thought they heard the sound of someone screaming.

-Stephen P. Smith

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10 Responses to “A Single Sparrow Singing, a poem”


  1. January 30, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Wow Smith, this is intense. I can’t believe someone actually set themselves on fire.
    Once I get past that though I love the comparison of the singing sparrow, it’s brilliant really.

    kim

    As I said, it’s based on a true story. Thank you for the kind words. I’m glad you liked it.

    -sps

  2. January 31, 2008 at 12:40 am

    Wow. Amazing poem, though I’m sorry that this is true. The way you juxtapose the scenes of the football game and the girl is so clear and wonderful– like scenes from a movie . And the last stanza is just…wow.

    Thank you for those kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    -sps

  3. 3 Red
    January 31, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Stephen, this is . . beyond words. It is strength and sadness and triumphs and pain. It’s gut wrenching and saddening, but soothing just the same. It’s a piece that is not only read, but felt.

    I’m glad I moved you. That is always my goal when I write a poem.

    -sps

  4. January 31, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Wow.
    Now that came out of left field.

    Well, you said you wanted another poem. Be careful what you wish for.

    Have to come back to this as I am clearly not in the mindset.
    Glad you posted another poem.
    In true Smith manner…. guess I had forgotten…..

    “In true Smith manner”. I’m left to wonder what you mean by that.

    More later.

    I’ll look forward to that.

    sps

  5. 5 ~m
    February 1, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    No more God
    Pretty much said it all for me.
    Powerful, evocative, breathtaking imagery.
    A Zippo, by any chance?
    Deep and very dark.
    My kind of thing.
    ~m

    Michael, any time I can take your breath away, I feel I have succeeded. High praise indeed. Thank you.

    -sps

  6. February 2, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Wow. That’s very graphic. I guess a poem might be the best way to write about something so horrible. To know this person, to have thought about it so much…I guess I can understand that. In my ignorant opinion, you did a very good job of giving lots of details…but keeping it short. Just enough mystery.

    Thank you, Lolly. Your opinion is never ignorant. In fact, you’ve divined exactly what I was trying to do here.

    -sps

  7. February 2, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Hey,~m remarked on the “no more God.” I had a dream awhile back that was one those kind that feels so real. And in my mind, I was knowing that I was separated from God. Totally. And I was thinking that this is how someone can kill their self – when “there is no more God.” But it scared me awake! I came awake and I was so scared – even with my husband right beside me. I just started praying – really calling on the name of Jesus to help me, and I slowly settled down and realized it was just a dream, and that the Lord was with me. Weird, huh?

    Not weird at all. Many people derive strength from their faith. Once again, you’ve divined another layer of meaning from this poem. Well done.

    -sps

  8. 8 alison
    February 6, 2008 at 2:12 am

    Stephen,

    Wonderful imagery. I mean splendid.

    I love the seasons. I love the way you take us into her mind, back to the scene, into the levity of the football game and back at the same time into the futility and heaviness of her despair. She could have written this. You became her. That is pure poetry. To be able to describe the emotions, the feelings, the perception. Well done.

    I love the use of the sparrow — genius — as everyone knows the belief that a sparrow symbolizes death –the soul passing. I love the juxtiposition of the sparrows bittersweet song mixed with the agony of her screams.

    I love the smell of the gasoline, the crunching leaves, the cold, the windless field. I felt your poem, I didn’t just read it. I was moved, I was sad. I was witness to someone’s pain –such a personal and private part of one’s soul.

    This is a poem, and a memory that will stay with me forever. I feel as if I knew her. What a tribute to her troubled life and death.

    Calm she is now, there is no fear.
    No more God, no more guilt,
    No more heaven, no more hell
    No more penance, no more pain
    No more hope, no more loss.

    Those were perfect to illustrate her emptiness. Simply — no more.

    Again –the imagery…just amazing.

    Ali

    Alison,

    thank you for these words. not just for the praise, but for the realization that you truly understood what I was trying to accomplish with this poem. Coming from a poet that I hold in truly high regards, this means a great deal to me.

    -sps

  9. February 21, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Thank you for stopping by my place. Like the pic, man smoking pipe, perfect :-).
    Tried to comment on above poem. The first lines are amazing. Truly brilliant.
    I am sure the rest is too.
    Couldn’t read any further for another time. Can’t get passed the image of someone setting themselves on fire, or someone actually knowing a person falling that hard. Sorry.

    Just hearing the word “brilliant” from you makes it all worthwhile.

    -sps

  10. August 6, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Eerie, frightening, tragic. Words escape me.
    Annie

    It seems as though this poem left a few people speechless, which was, of course, the idea. I have to admit that I do believe this one to be one of my better efforts. Thank you!

    -sps


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taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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