For the Sparrows Who Lost Their Nests in the Southern Indiana Tornado

by Carrie Jerrell

After the F-4 drags its tail down rural route three
and the willow rests its disheveled head
on the newly shingled roof, my father calls me
to report debris: bike tires, sparrow nests,
the Jones’ plastic swimming pool,
and one pink pocket-size New Testament.

Where I live in Texas, there are plains of sun.
I need a plastic pool. I need the Psalms.
I miss the Midwest hill and lake, coon hounds
high on table scraps, the balm of honeysuckle
and rhubarb cake. But my home county’s overrun
with tweakers cooking bathtub crank in houses
one dropped cigarette away from bursting
into hardboard flames. Their feathered neighbors
watch from holes in the ends of rusted clothesline poles.

House sparrows, white trash of the species,
when I fly home on my mother’s prayer
with a pink swimsuit and a tin-can phone,
greet me at the door with your cheep cheep.
If I could buy you brick colonials set deep
in maple groves and safe from every spinning wind
I would, but all I’ve got are pocketfuls of childhood
fool’s gold pecked from driveway gravel.
The trailer I grew up in sits alone, abandoned
at the edge of town like a whiskered old man
watching lightning from a busted lawnchair.
Ride out one last green sky and the poverty
of stars there with me, hunkered near
the bathroom plumbing and harmonizing
with the power line’s hum, singing
as if someone listened, as if we didn’t need
two copper coins or the clothing of lilies,
as if we weren’t trapped on cinder blocks, but free.

Carrie Jerrell is the author of the book After the Revival, 2008 winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. She received her MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and her PhD in English from Texas Tech University, where she was honored as a Chancellor's Fellow. Currently, she is an assistant professor of English and associate director of the MFA program at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky.