Produced by Dennis Camire

This week’s poem is by former Maine Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl. Her most recent book is “Otherwise Unseeable,” published by Wisconsin Poetry Series.


Two for a Penny

By Betsy Sholl


Little sparrow, how easy to disparage you,

Ubiquitous as you are, fidgeting from thicket

To thicket along the block. I’ve watched you


Flock like squatters in a tree, seen you fly off

Through a fence hole, straight as a sprung arrow.

All shadow and flash, at home in my eaves,


You’re easy, too, at the zoo, hardly noticed,

Left free to dart and zoom, grow fat

On dropped scraps. You talk, you chat,


But don’t sing, just chirp, cheep—cheap

I can hear my mother say, and common,

As if those were the same thing.


But sparrow, what kind of love hovers

Only around what’s rare, missing, dissing

What’s in plain sight, ordinary as air?


You who remain after the others fly off,

Now you’ve gathered in a tree’s bare rafters,

In your color of twig and winter-gray sky.


From your beak a tiny breath puffs out

Through cold air, sign of all that’s warm inside,

All that won’t be spared, but will be counted —


Is that possible: every feather and fall? —

As if somewhere there’s a book of sparrows,

Of sorrows, heavy ledger listing us all.


Dennis Camire can be reached at [email protected]