His Eye on The Sparrow

I guess black people can write about flowers at a time like this since every poem turns on itself. Starts one way to

end another. We see it in nature, too. How seed turns to leaf regardless of its earth or my rambling thoughts

blossom into a hyacinth with as sweet a scent. I dream of Mamie Till often. She walks the church aisle toward her

son’s body while wisteria bloats the casket’s brim and papered bougainvillea bracts emerge from where his eye

once was. An entire garden from the nutrients of the body’s soil. And not to mention all those awed birds circling

Emmett’s pillowed corpse. So many in the tabernacle. Not harbingers of his God’s descent, not refugees fleeing his

body exilic but ecstasy’s plump arrows. We, living, have it all wrong. When eternity’s concerned, sparrows don’t

take leave. They fly into you.

Airea D. Matthews received a BA in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program and an MPA from the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Matthews is the author of Bread and Circus (Scribner Books, 2023) and Simulacra (Yale University Press, 2017), selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets.

A Cave Canem Fellow and a Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, Matthews is the recipient of a Pew Fellowship, the 2017 Margaret Walker For My People award, the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Matthews is an associate professor and directs the poetry program at Bryn Mawr College, where she was presented the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award. In partnership with Real Estate Interests LLC, she is developing a literary arts commune in Sicily. She serves as the 2022–23 Philadelphia poet laureate. In 2022, Matthews received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship.