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A Sparrow's Life's as Sweet as Mine

                                    Corrie Williamson

                         â€•John Clare

Each year before the autumn fires
we’d climb the ladder’s tin rungs
to the roof. My father tied thick chain
to a length of rope and fed it clanking
down the chimney. Most house fires,
he said, come from build-up
in the flue, creosote and pine tar
slicked to the inner walls: a would-be
howling throat of flame.
We scraped the danger away
with iron links. I never feared a fire
would take our lives: unimaginable
our bodies outlasting this house.
Impossible as the first hunt he allowed
me to come on (after years of leaving
talismans in his coat pockets: a silver
leaf, an unopened pinecone,
green seaglass) when I held the doe’s
rear legs as he reached inside her,
his fist closing around the lungs
forcing her leftover breath into the air
as a cold gasped cloud. Those rooftop
mornings, perched above our beds,
we’d hear the metal shouldering against
brick, sloughing soot. In lucky years,
there would already be a deer
hung in the garage, her muscle
turning the marbled blue of cold
meat. In lucky years, we’d hear too
the thrum of wings, the sparrow navigating
past the chain and out of that puckered
black mouth, past our pale faces
and into the chilled air, wings soft
with ash, nest knocked free into the empty
space our fires would safely lick.

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