Literary Hook: Poem inspired by an antique store in the great American West

October 23, 2013

Christine Swanberg

By Christine Swanberg
Author and Poet

In keeping with the theme of the great American West, here is a poem inspired by a painting in an antique store in Port Townsend, Wash.

Sparrows Falling from the Sky

The soprano, whose voice is brilliant

as fire, sings the aria from Madam Butterfly

on the radio in the Port Townsend Antique Store.

The notes build like snow before an avalanche

on Mount Baker across the bay.

This could be heaven, I am thinking

examining the quirky Nippon vases

I have grown fond of: the ardor of their attempts

at European Baroque foiled

by the ever-graceful elongated necks

of snow geese, the calligraphy of stylized trees.

How I love this upstart marriage of East and West.

The aria reaches its zenith when I enter

booth No. 23, a dark cove devoted to things Nippon,

the era before Pearl Harbor,

before the high society ladies scratched off

Nippon from the bottom of tea sets,

delicate and filigreed as small, old hands.

The aria reaches its zenith, which

would have been enough to fog my glasses,

enough to flood my eyes.

There on the wall a strange painting startles me.

It is so topsy-turvy, so incongruous

I am drawn into it —

a cacophony of bird wings, helter-skelter

like a firestorm, in faded red and muddy charcoal.

Birds adrift like autumn leaves!

It reads: Sparrows Falling from the Sky.

Hiroshima. Artist Unknown.

It grips me by the throat — rain on my face.

First published in Out of Line literary journal and The Alleluia Tree, Puddin’head Press.

This poem was first published in Who Walks Among the Trees with Charity, Wind Pubications, 2005.Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet. She received the Lawrence E. Gloyd Community Impact Award at the 2012 Rockford Area Arts Council State of the Arts Awards.

From the Oct. 23-29, 2013, issue

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