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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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WINTER SOLSTICE,
DOWNTOWN MINNEAPOLIS
 

 
At 3:30 I walk south on Hennepin
Avenue, the low yellow light flash-
flooding streets, blinding, rendering human
shapes lumpen, clod-like, as though just risen
out of some frozen potato field.

An hour later, the sun almost down,
I brush past a man standing palm-out
in a doorway. Behind me a friendly voice
says, "Here, take this, and good luck."
I turn back, fish a dollar from my pocket.

When we do the right thing, the kind thing,
we encourage others, whom we may
not see. I say God bless that unseen
friend who re-lit in me a candle of
compassion on the darkest day of the year.

                                            -Thomas R. Smith

KINNICKINNIC RIVER EAGLE
 

 
Second-to-last day of the year. Temperature
falling, harsh wind chafing our faces. Abruptly,
from the russet cover of oaks, an immense-
winged blackness breaks over the path, then lights
on a branch overhanging the frozen shore.
We recognize that blackness by the white
feathers scalloping its tail, the snow-white head.
And I remember: Our town has an eagle!

Up around the bend, a stretch of open water
the eagle must be watching for prey,
otherwise deserted by all but a handful
of die-hard geese foraging here and in
harvested fields, the big flocks gone south. . . .
In a winter like this, it would be easy to
credit the doubters, when to all appearances
'the snows of yesteryear' have returned.

It's hard to wrap around how warming ocean
currents can give rise to blizzards locking in
the whole Pacific Northwest at Christmas.
Some say that by century's end, Wisconsin
could be hot and dry as Texas. What then
are the fates of river, trout, and eagle?
Head's work is to learn, heart's work to care.
Sometimes I forget: Our town has an eagle.
 
                                           -Thomas R. Smith