Cheryl Dumesnil


excerpt from The Sparrow and the Twig


Have I told you about the cherry tree? she asks.

How the mother worried and worried for her sickly infant who nursed all night but withered by day.

How she rocked and rocked in the dark hours, her shrinking bird-baby swaddled in her arms.

How her eyelids fluttered shut for a moment, and the cherry tree appeared, luminescent, pink-white blossoms.

How peace grew alive in her, from the roots of her feet to the trunk of her torso to the branches of her arms to the blossoms of her hair.

How from that day forward, she knew she was god?

Everything she touched: rocking chair, swaddling blanket, child, dark—was god?



Remember when the priest said god is light
and wherever there is light, there is god,
and you gazed at the red globe hung from a chain beside the altar,
confused, the candle flickering inside?



Remember when the priest said
god is love, and you smelled your mother’s perfume
wafting down from the choir loft
as she opened her chest in song,
and it almost made sense?



Remember when the priest said god is
the breeze, and you saw her fingers

combing through the cherry orchard,
white petals lifting off in flocks,

and then you believed.



Nothing is working out the way you expected? she asks.
Good. You’ve found the path. Start walking.



Sparrow song dredges your body from the water dream:
giving way to light. 

You lie on your back, eyes closed, naked,
cuneiform of leaches
sucking at your skin. 

One by one, the sparrows wing down, tug at the leeches
and fly off, onyx curls
pinched in their beaks.



Remember the poem
by Rilke:

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

 by Rumi:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

by Hirshfield:

You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.

Where are you now?



Dear Sparrow, 

for years the voice in my dreams:
Something amazing is about to happen.
Just wait. You’ll see.



Dear Sparrow, 

each morning I wake
sore from the waiting.



Dear Sparrow, 

I want nothing more
than cherry petals
snowing on my upturned face.

The night blooming
jasmine, she says,
its crepe-white, five-pointed star—

this will have to do.





 Cheryl Dumesnil’s books include two collection of poems, Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes and In Praise of Falling; a memoir, Love Song for Baby X: How I Stayed (Almost) Sane on the Rocky Road to Parenthood; and the anthology Dorothy Parker’s Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos​, co-edited with Kim Addonizio. She began writing “The Sparrow and the Twig” post-divorce, sitting on her back porch in the dark morning hours, to prove to herself she could continue writing poems in her new life as a Solo Mom.