Earl grey skies swaddle the rooftops like hand-knit mittens.
A reluctant rain begins to fall, pattering on sidewalks
and bejeweling the crimson leaves of the maple trees in the city park.
I walk slowly through the purple twilight, breathing deeply
the smells of damp earth and wet leaves.
The path skirts an old stone chapel nestled among fir trees.
From the shadows of needled boughs, I hear the rustle of wings:
a flock of white-throated sparrows seeking shelter as they migrate south.
They shift restlessly among the evergreen needles, their warbles
muffled by the mist and rain. A flash of russet feathers and
a lone sparrow darts from a harbored branch to shrubs along the chapel wall
where clumps of red berries tempt the wandering soul.
He watches my approach, his dark eyes darting, his head cocked curiously.
He pecks at one berry, then another but doesn’t start as I pass by.
A solitary explorer, away from his flock and me from mine,
Alone in the twilight (does that mean lonely?).
I wonder where he’s headed, this little russet sparrow?
What does he think of this rainy-city park, of the fir trees,
of the red berries in the shrubs along the old-stone chapel?
It’s raining harder now. I quicken my steps. Darkness deepens.
By Noel Vanderbilt