Ivywall of Sparrows (from MiPOesias)
for Rob Davis
I missed you at the coffee shop
before sunrise, so I went along
with a to-go in hand all the way
to Clinton and Jerolemon,
where the subway juts up
from the earth’s eye socket,
& from the corner of my own,
I twisted toward the sparrows
upon sparrows covering
a 30-foot stucco wall cracked
with song, without syllables,
“Here Comes the Sun” in case
I lost track of the time.
Tell the people you pass
and inhabit later on:
Take your marketable skills
and raise them to this wall;
hold your brush up wet with
rushes and slows and find
your daytime position sings here.
“I missed you” at a place we would awaken; there is little if any light out. Therefore, “I went along with a to-go in hand:” not seeing entirely yet, and with an object not made for any particular place.
“Clinton and Jerolemon” is almost an intersection in Brooklyn, and “where the subway juts up from the earth’s eye socket” may or may not be near there – I’m imagining the Borough Hall Metro stop to be like one resembling an eye. This landscape probably isn’t real: this could be anywhere: the poem ends with an exhortation to the entire world. “[F]rom the earth’s eye socket, / & from the corner of my own” – not that we see, but how we see. We are mimicking something we perceive to be natural, something that is an aspect of the whole (the earth). Therefore, “I twisted toward the sparrows / upon sparrows covering:” darkness upon darkness is being dispelled, but we only see that by forcing ourselves to pay attention to the sunrise, seeing a sparrow’s dullness emerge.
There is no light imagery except for a song title, and that is the revelation of cracks in a wall. That revelation signals the onset of the work day: the thing about the wall of sparrows is that for a moment, it doesn’t matter if they’re real or painted. The sun and the wall itself do not care, and yet are present; something in our speaker has broken through (“juts”/”cracked”), and darkness has come to life. So from silence, to a song playing in one’s head, there now emerges “tell.” This telling is universal, but we do not naturally associate with everyone – universality is achieved, and ends up being something different from what was first assumed.
For now, the achievement depends on taking what in us makes the work day and sacrificing it to the wall: “raise” has every religious connotation possible, and this is an awakening of light, not coffee. This doesn’t mean we abandon our work, though. Our work makes us a brush loaded with paint, capable of different sort of brushstrokes: “rushes and slows.” Working conceived as painting finds the individual daytime position singing. There never was anything universal other than the crudity of stumbling in darkness and standing in light; all people experience time. The true discovery of the “universal” is the individual.