My daughter flits into my lap,
relates what she has seen
that afternoon in the parking garage
beside the market. She is a wisp
of skin over hollow bones,
a ribcage like harp strings
holding her wild-beating heart,
scapulae jutting like vestigial wings,
fingers and toes long as claws
she still doesn’t quite fit.
She tells me about the concrete shelf
above the elevator where a sparrow
had built her home. On the ground below,
a baby bird, the freshness of death
evident in its body still bloody.
Ants swarmed, carrying away
invisible bits of flesh.
The mother stood high in her nest,
looking down upon her lost child,
chirping a dirge.
I might not have believed that last detail,
except that my daughter hasn’t yet
learned to lie. She perches
lightly across my thighs,
her arms loose around my neck.
Only a tongue knowing nothing
of actual sadness, having tasted
only the life of a well-loved child,
could hold the strength to imitate
that sound, sweet and bereft.