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The little Blaisdale girl was knock-kneed

and cranky with freckles. She was

quiet and often immersed

in the King's versions of holy writ.

They called her Sparrow,

so the Lord would be watchful of her ...

When her father's boat failed

to come back from the North Atlantic

there was finally a memorial

followed by a feast -

she and I were charged

to take blue enamel kettles

full of garbage

out to the pit beyond the henhouses.

She was a year older than me and could

walk faster. I stumbled

twice in the pigs' run. It was

a cold peninsula in Maine.

It was snowing heavily ...

In her old communion dress she was

now invisible in a white wind - the gulls

arriving were quickly lost

also in the storm:

there was a disembodied sobbing, only the red

carapace of lobsters, the screams of gulls

and then again,

only the armor of those big sea spiders

climbing high to a vanishing point

beyond even Butler's Cove

and the great granite face

of Morse Mountain which like a freighter

from Asia moved impossibly into the nor'easter ...

Asia was where her mother said the father

had died first,

eating even the bones of snakes, the sound

of gnashing teeth

there beside the compost heap, again and again,

with full ardor

and in the full circle of cold and nitrogen.

"The Sparrow"

Norman Dubie

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