Eating the Sparrows

A platter of walnuts, I think. 
Shanghai and the banquet is festive. 
Strong Chinese brandy and “Campi!” 
so we drink to the bottom. 
The sparrows drop to my plate, their 
tiny drumsticks clamped to their sides, 
a nub of wings, a slash of beak. “Eat!” 
our host says. My mouth flickers and 
swoops in the tall room. Sparrows, why 
you should come to me with your 
slivers of meat and your songless sky 
I don’t know. Nor how you fell, by what 
blow or trick, what feast of crumbs. 
Who asked for your sacrifice? Do 
your deaths cross from famine 
onto this plentiful island of friendship? 
I watch the host, nimble 
over the carcass with pleasure. It is time 
to pick up your unlucky sparrow, believe 
against your safety. Sparrow, 
your message is clear: it is not too late 
for my singing.

Guilin/June 17, 1983