Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Carel Fabritius. 1654, oil on panel, 35.2 cm. x 22.8 cm.

The bird is fiction though the paint is real”
the paint, that is, of the original.

This one’s a copy pasted in a frame.
Each hour the gold light on his wall’s the same.

He hangs between the cupboard and the fridge
where, day after day, it is his privilege

to see our windowed sunlight come and go,
eavesdrop on music from the stereo,

mark my ditherings or eye my bathrobed wife.
I think he’d trade his stillness for my life,

just as I often envy him his stasis.
O plump brown household god, what most amazes

is how, held in that perfect light from Delft,
chained to a narrow rail, perched on a shelf

in 1654, you look at us”
small finch that might have watched Fabritius

the year flame rendered him to ash. You stare
from a modest trompe l’oeil heaven we don’t share.

Mute bird, they’re finite, as you know, the days.
But sing to us. Sing of the light that stays