"Sparrow-watching" by Shelley Whitaker
Updated: May 25, 2019
after Sparrows (1926), in which ten orphans are enslaved and kept on a “baby farm”
If it’s the sparrows God watches then give us wings or fuck the sparrows. God let a tree punch its claw through our last kite. God rings a bell when someone looking like an angel wanders up to the gate, but God’s locked the gate every time. Our master limps but it never matters when a villain’s only got one good leg. Figure-eight around his ankles all you want; he’s always on the trunk’s other side, crook in hand to yank you back. Then he chains the latch of the shed he keeps you in & makes Christ a fever dream. All the blinding light & grazing sheep only mean the meekest one’s kicked it. We wrote a prayer for headlights & utter it at night in case the last bird’s fallen. ‘Til then the two skinniest girls on the farm stick their hands down their throats & belch to hear who’s emptier. It’s the least sparrow-like song there is.
– originally published in Issue 12 of Sundog Lit.