I had a mini meltdown yesterday, trying to take some photographs in bad light. And I have a way of taking it to heart when I'm having a bad day behind the camera and feeling useless. Then I gave up and lay on the couch for a while and read some poems instead. And I guess I was going a little stir crazy, having stayed indoors to make photographs all day, after days of being stuck inside sick. And I read this poem by Billy Collins and thought I knew how the sparrow felt.
The first thing I heard this morning
was a rapid, flapping sound, soft, insistent—
wings against glass as it turned out
downstairs where I saw a 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 on the cold night
through the flap of the 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 wide open, like mine as I lie in bed tonight
picturing this rare, lucky sparrow
tucked in a holly bush now,
a light snow tumbling through the windless dark.