We found them after the tree trimmers

had loaded up their machines and gone—

two baby sparrows in the grass, tumbled 

like ripe fruit. We placed a shoebox on a heating 

pad, lined it with soft cloth, and watched them 

squeak and squirm, all purplish crepe skin, 

bulging eyes shut. Our mother promised us 

she’d feed them when it was time to go to school, 

sugar water squeezed from a tiny dropper 

into even tinier beaks. I picture her kneeling 

over the box every two hours, laboring to save

what could not possibly be saved. Twenty years 

later, her pale limbs swollen and still under a light

blue blanket, we too labor, squeezing water 

from pink sponges into her slack mouth, more 

of it dribbling out than in, love compelling us, 

as it does, through the motions of giving life, 

as though death had not already made its claim.

Katherine Lo

is a writer and high school English teacher living in Southern California. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, Rattle, CALYX, and Naugatuck River Review. She is also author of the YA novel The Cellar, one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014.

Contributions by Katherine Lo