Stranger asked if he should throw it
against the brick wall, throw it out
of its misery, or up against it.

He had shot the broken legged horse
or the rabid dog when he needed to,
on the farm where he grew up, somewhere

south of here. Never violent, just
loud. Let this one die quietly, I tell him.
Lying at our feet, the patient

house sparrow listens to us,
scared of my voice and his
voice, all dry with summer ache,

her splintered wing, still
moving against the cement.
Stranger’s train is here—

he won’t leave the sparrow alone
with me; I am too afraid of the harm
I could cause with my hands.

He lifts her up, like nothing at all,
and I watch him place our bird gently
into his pocket, where I cannot see

her swaddled feathers or her small
mouth, tip pressed against
the flat surface of a silver coin.