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"I always report the truth with precision and accuracy. I loved the sparrow but I'm back north now and a titmouse is building a nest (I think) in the Redbud tree right over my head, and the poem I'm now writing is called 'Three Sharp Sounds.'"
Gerald Stern

The Sparrow

Gerald Stern, 1925

Here’s a common sparrow, a bit of a schnorrer
come to celebrate my 88th at
Whole Foods at 10th and Alton in
Miami Beach, a block away from where
my mother lived for 27 years,
the wrong end of Miami Beach then
but now the center; though she can hardly stay
for the party she is so busy with the cheese
which disentangled from the bread and one would
kiss her but she is partial to the bread
and has to fly away so she can eat
in secrecy which is a good enough gift
compared to the knowledge that I was common too
and if I eat from china I would just as soon
eat from paper—or plastic—the difference between
the sparrow and me is I need a solid plate
of some sort—even a leaf—a noble spine
and green in all directions and the smell of the
mother tree everywhere but I am slow now.

Copyright © 2013 by Gerald Stern. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 29, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Gerald Stern. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 29, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1925. His recent poetry collections include Divine Nothingness: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2014); In Beauty Bright: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2012); Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (W. W. Norton, 2010), and Save the Last Dance: Poems (2008).

by this poet

poem
How you loved to read in the snow and when your
face turned to water from the internal heat
combined with the heavy crystals or maybe it was
reversus you went half-blind and your eyelashes
turned to ice the time you walked through swirls 
with dirty tears not far from the rat-filled river
or really a mile away—
poem
Every city in America is approached
through a work of art, usually a bridge
but sometimes a road that curves underneath 
or drops down from the sky. Pittsburgh has a tunnel—

you don't know it—that takes you through the rivers
and under the burning hills. I went there to cry
in the woods or carry my heavy
poem
In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture
and wrinkled ties and baseball trophies and coffee pots
I have never seen a post-war Philco 
with the automatic eye
nor heard Ravel's "Bolero" the way I did
in 1945 in that tiny living room
on Beechwood Boulevard, nor danced as I did
then, my knives all