The tongue finds the sparrow
softly nestled in the cheek;
a white call of feathers plumes
wild in each throat. Our murmurs,
pulled thin through the narrow beak,

come to settle
in the other.

Whose gasp, teeth-caught, whistles
through the mind’s thick chapel—
sounding this, the warmest note?

Sire the muscle, bruise bone; make music
of your brittle animal.


I came to you with hungry wrestle, numb
dismissals, open jaw—

I came with mammy eye and pappy lie;
black duppy bruising you in the night

mute in this summer’s fathered dark,
I gave you skin and bone, teeth and heart.

I swallowed stone after stone,
anchoring myself in the shallow
vein of your palm.

Nobody saved you,
white as a throat

as I washed Noah’s animals
wailing at me from the dark.

I bathed them in a deluge
of the spit, the bile, the phlegm,

the offal we called love-making when
eyes shut tight, you dared not look

as your arrows went through my limbs.

As you latched your bones into me,
I know you were thumbing the eye of God;

hands clasped ‘round a body you
couldn’t see in the dark, praying

for order,
for symmetry.

But sugarcane burnt this blood black
and the rumbling sea knows
which names to call me

‘til I crumble like cornmeal pudding Hallelujah
and Kingdom-come.

Nobody warned you,
cold as bone,

that this hair uproots in nettle-stings,
to dress for fire, and bring a thicker whip;

that what you thought was sparrow
was Jamaican grassquit.