Quills and Feathers

Lark Sparrow

What light flickers on? What invisible filament

guides them on their long migration north?

May, and already they tumble toward this cathedral green,

graze on grasshoppers, the slender, uneaten seeds

of the previous fall. Both blessing and burden,

this trembling display, the courtship they shoulder

restoring the species. Meanwhile, frail petals unfold

on the forbs, rise from the thatch of last season,

this noisy pond, that placid field, this dusty Earth,

their rusty patches, their melodic song, singing, singing.

Sparrow, Lark

Chondestes grammacus

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This paean to the sparrows' spring courtship song is a human melody in itself, with the frequent alliteration ("green, / graze on grasshoppers"; " Both blessing and burden"; "frail petals unfold / on the forbs") and the occasional leaps into rollicking dactylics ("trembling display, the courtship they shoulder / restoring the species"). . . . The Lark Sparrow is one of the Midwest's more easily identified native sparrows, with its striped facial pattern and long, varied song.

Bibliographical information

Author: Twyla Hansen and Paul Johnsgard

Book: Prairie Suite: A Celebration

Date: 2006

Publisher: Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center

Project Information

Genre: Poetry