I never learned to tell one from another— swamp, field, song, vesper—they’re all scraps of drab: rust, dun, buff, tan. Some streaky-breasted, some not. We hear the flutter of their wings, look up, then yawn, ho hum, a sparrow. No rush for the binoculars. Like the poor, they are always with us. Look at them flick and flit in this dry meadow of foxtail, switchgrass, goldenrod; every leaf, stem, and seed head burnished in the dying light. Maybe they are the only angels we get in this life. But the very hairs on our head are numbered, and the father knows them all by name. Each sparrow, too, has a song—no flashy cardinal selling cheer, no sky-blue jay’s ironic squawk, no eponymous chicka-dee-dee-dee. Just us, the unnoticed, gleaning what others have left behind, and singing for all we’re worth, teetering on a bit of bracken at the edge of a wild field.
But the store is closed, so we don’t know what it sells. And we can’t imagine where it is the angels go at night; do they settle in trees? Or do they really make nests, and if so, what kind of bedclothes would they use, gossamer or tulle? Thin wisps, mysteries and sighs? Or this mist, the brouillard, rising from the green Garonne? Perhaps something tangible and insubstantial at the same time, like the host that melts on the tongue while remaining body and blood, bread and wine. Vive les mystères. Meanwhile, the angels are amusing themselves with games like whisper down the alley and ghost in the graveyard, as they sip just the bubbles from their flutes of champagne, and nibble delicate kisses made of meringue in the faint ethereal light of the stars.