Problems with Windows
                          after Levis

Leave them closed, clear of curtains,
inevitably a sparrow ends itself

on the glass. You must imagine
how sudden everything is

for the sparrow keening away from a jay:
There’s somewhere to go,

rectangle of light, glint, reflection,
then nothing. The bird

doesn’t hear the thud of its skull,
twitch of its neck; that’s for the air.


Leave them open long enough,
sparrows simply fly in. This one

must’ve tired of the heat beneath
the elms where young couples

grope in the shade under each
other’s shirts before it shuttled

through the museum window hexed
with iron bars, and perched on

a light above Caravaggio’s boy
holding a fruit basket, the way he looks

alone, almost burdened.


We had windows like that in a kitchen
I once worked, above a table

where we boned and skinned cases
of chickens that bobbed and thawed

in a sink, floating there, headless, wingless,
as if the birds had never been birds.

Shit can fly in, Franky would say, closing
the window, heat, and chickens in on us.

Franky, who was skinny but dangerous
and lived by the river, had a knack for it

and, like Caravaggio, a penchant for blades.
You see, you had to break them open,

yank out the sternum, knife between
rib and tendon, leave no shard, then mallet

the meat until you could make out
the grain of wood beneath.


Nothing catastrophic happened.
The sparrow didn’t crap on the painting

nor try to end itself in the shaft of light
behind the boy’s head. It shuttled

room to room, passed Bernini’s Apollo,
above the armless statues in the portico,

and out a window at the other end,
though such a rush, it felt torn;

which is to say, it filled me with memory.


Sometimes I look at a painting and forget
what to live for: the histories

perpetuated in the face of the boy,
or for the aloneness, the jitteringly nervous

suspension of a bird. And I don’t know
if Franky ended the way everyone thought.

The thing I remember is his eyes:
if they looked at you, shit was going down,

and if he stood still long enough,
they trembled like two dark pools.


And I imagine if you looked in the eye
of that sparrow, you would see the same

and a window of blue reflected
and curved and vulnerable

over its surface. Of course, to do so,
you’d first have to capture it, learn how to
hold a thing without crushing it.

(reprinted from Micreants, Norton 2007)