James Henry Knippen is currently a W. Morgan and Lou Claire Rose
Fellow at Texas State University � San Marcos, where he is
pursuing his MFA in poetry and works as an editor for the online
journal Front Porch.

The Cat

When it sneezed
it sounded like
a small bird landing
on my shoulder�
a bird so small
it thought it had
found a mountain there
and that the wall
before me was the sky
and that the sky
beyond the window
was heaven,
for which it flew
into the glass
that shattered loud
enough to make me
jump, but it was just
the cat again,
shamefaced on top of
the table from which
a glass had fallen.

I Look Into Your Eyes

two mirrors

more mirrors
than rabbits

do rabbits
but shatter



that the slow
thread of a wing's

drifts further than

the hand
can reach as it

feeds rain-
bows to moon-

from a garden hose

and paradise
to the mind that reins

the arcs
that lay dormant

as thunder-
clouds sleeping



Two sparrows lived in separate cages
in a room, and would have been divided
from each other's view (a wall stood in-
between their keeps) but for a window,
adjacent the wall, that each could look through
and upon, and see the body of the other
mirrored on its surface, that both appeared
transparent as a ghost or glass.

The window looked upon some trees, a sky,
a distant lake. The sparrows saw the scene
projected through their bodies on the glass
and believed the bodies contained its beauty
and that this beauty gave them song.
The beauty of the songs was such it caused
a longing in each bird to see the body
beyond the wall and all that each contained
together: trees, a sky, the lake that let them
sing until the quietness of rain on water.

In time the rain passed through the ceiling
over the wall, eroding it until it fell
and let each longing see its other. And so
the sparrows saw the truth was but a mirror
less like a lake than utterly unclear, a window
but an architect of ghosts, that no sky beat
within a breast nor trees within a wing.
Then rain as sudden as songs turned sad
fell quiet as the room became, and they
longed for the wall to be between them again.

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