Christmas Sparrow

Christmas Sparrow

Billy Collins

The first thing I heard this morning 
was a rapid flapping sound, soft, insistent —
wings against glass as it turned out 
downstairs when I saw the small bird 
rioting in the frame of a high window, 
trying to hurl itself through 
the enigma of glass into the spacious light.
Then a noise in the throat of the cat 
who was hunkered on the rug 
told me how the bird had gotten inside, 
carried in the cold night 
through the flap of a basement door, 
and later released from the soft grip of teeth. 
On a chair, I trapped its pulsations 
in a shirt and got it to the door, 
so weightless it seemed 
to have vanished into the nest of cloth.
But outside, when I uncupped my hands, 
it burst into its element, 
dipping over the dormant garden 
in a spasm of wingbeats 
then disappeared over a row of tall hemlocks.
For the rest of the day, 
I could feel its wild thrumming 
against my palms as I wondered about 
the hours it must have spent 
pent in the shadows of that room, 
hidden in the spiky branches 
of our decorated tree, breathing there 
among the metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn, 
its eyes open, like mine as I lie in bed tonight 
picturing this rare, lucky sparrow 
tucked into a holly bush now, 
a light snow tumbling through the windless dark.

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