sparrows – Original Poetry by Carolyn Wing Greenlee

little birds
brown and plain
are not less noticed 
than sea-churning whales
flashing stallions
supple leopards 
or cool, still herons
on blue
little birds
fly into windows
lie broken on the roof
while wild winter rains
scour feathers from the glass
and nearly nobody knows
or cares
a billion people elsewhere
could care less
about our fears
our deaths
Jesus sees the brown and plain
broken against the windowpane
and recalls the hot sun
and the grit
of Jerusalem
I chose this poem, sparrows, because it most fulfills what Archibald Macleish wrote in his poem “Ars Poetica”—A poem should not mean/but be.
I had always thought of titles as a kind of honor, not something that made any difference in a life, but when I was named Lake County Poet Laureate number 3, doors swung open that I didn’t expect. I was invited to read at the first two gatherings of all the California poets laureate with Al Young, the California Poet Laureate at that time, who spent the entire two days with us. He is a masterful poet, musician, actor, and human being, and I reveled in his encouragement to me to keep “representing” for the Chinese and the blind. It was also a life-changing experience because we heard all the best poets from the state and discovered that ours, Jim Lyle, James BlueWolf, Sandra Wade, and I, were well qualified to be in that illustrious company. 
My favorite accomplishment was the increase in literacy concerning poetry. I founded the writers group at the Arts Council, and I hosted a big literary workshop with the PLs from neighboring counties reading their poems and teaching on poetic structure (such as compression and the sounds of words). It was gratifying to see the quality of poetry increase as enthusiastic writers learned what makes a poem different from prose and found their own voices in this unique and magnificent genre. 
Carolyn Wing Greenlee

Carolyn Wing Greenlee first discovered poetry as a child looking through her mother’s library. The love affair with carefully crafted words has never ceased, though her own skills increased as she majored in comparative literature with a specialty in poetry at Occidental College and in creative writing with an emphasis on poetry in grad school at UC Davis. She has taught poetry in schools, been a guest teacher and reader at schools, universities, literary festivals, and literary gatherings, taught and read as a featured poet several times at conferences of Women Writing the West, and was a member of the group Poetrio, with Lake County poets laureate Jim Lyle and James BlueWolf. She has written 18 books and edited more than 30, bringing to print unusual subjects such as her mother’s life growing up inside a Chinese laundry and her own experience of blindness and guide dog school. She is currently completing her last book. After 38 years of writing, she’s planning to rework and bring to performance the musical she co-authored with Dan Worley, and work on a new album of her original songs. After the grueling labor of writing a book, it will be kind of a vacation.

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