Aditi Machado

Outside the Aviary

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There is a history of sparrow-keeping
and of the keepers. There is no community.
Only twos and threes of us, making our spells.
We speak of the diaries that have been kept
on sparrows; their masters and friends;
the letters; the legends. It seems all so romantic,
elusive to our mundane world. Then we remember
we have them in our hands too, soft sleeping things,
how they sit so quietly in our laps, how small
and full of air, soufflés, and there are so many
matters to discuss, that we are not taxidermists,
not quite, though we often smell of feathers,
and the other day, one of my sparrows began to speak
—so common, you say—to complain of fire
in her bones: her eyes glowed and her body
took on the shape of a lantern.
I take her out of my pocket for you.