Sparrow Song for Michael

by Martin Steingesser

          Hardly a breeze of air.
          The small birds fall silent in the trees.
          Simply wait: soon
          You too will be silent.
                                             Goethe

Now the voice but no body
                                           unlike the one on the phone
saying you’re gone.
                              When I turn to my wife, in some strange way you are the words. And tears
                                                 We say, well up,
and isn’t that right, tears rising in us
                                                          like weather, like mist.
And from where? “Inside,” you once said,
                                                                  “there is always deeper.”
Days later, looking at a photo of you
                                                          walking away in a field through a sea of high ferns,
                                           I see how you were already on your way, how we’re all on our way, crossing that meadow.
Out in sunshine another morning,
                                                       sparrows flitting about chirping for crumbs, what hurts
                                                       Michael, I hardly knew you.
A few beers together,
                                 hearing you say one of your poems “Outside, the smallest birds . . .
                                                 begin the heavy lifting,” you read, “tugging a reluctant day over dark hills.”
                                                               I love your voice, its amber, rosin tone,
                 and hold your words in that well of tears,
bell of grief and joy, summon and say them
                                                                    again and again
for all of us, your sparrows
                                          over the meadow, the dark hills.