A worm piercing through wet earth crawls toward the shadow of a no name dog chained to a tree, pawing at the silence of worm holes.
The sparrow is the only one who knows, leaps to the sound of a distant horn honking, circles, hovers over a farmer dressed for Sunday mass. She steals hay, swoops down to clasp her beak on the slow, wriggling creature. Baby birds chirp tight tones, restless in their nest.
The sparrow knows how to make the best of worm holes.
The worm hole vacant, the dog’s ear close, listening for echoes down through layers of well-traveled places he never goes. He paws at holes.
No name is used to hearing what he cannot see, always imagining what the sparrow is free to be. He stares at a stone at the center of night, the same moon, every night, and the sparrow sleeping.
He hears the sound of pigs squealing, baseball bats thumping on bare backs as they run from the slaughter room floor. They huff air like milk, as if silence will nourish them, like the worm in a baby bird’s mouth. They look for a worm hole, too. A well-traveled tunnel to places they will never know, imagine it will take them to the sound of their babies burrowing beside them, pawing at holes.
They chew each other’s flesh, like fresh tomatoes, out of boredom, frustration, for the sensation of being alive while locked inside gestation crates until pushed down a compactor shoot. Their screams echo off no name’s stone, night after night. He chews his toes. He watches. He listens.
He wonders what the sparrow knows. Always, he paws holes.
No name dog chews until morning light, when the farmer’s son sprays water into his rusty pail. The boy glances at the gnawed knob of the dog’s foot, beats him with a hammer for all the dog doesn’t know, can’t see, isn’t free to be.
He wipes his bloody hands on his pant leg, turns away from the panic.
In the silence of no name dog’s screaming, the sparrow focuses on the worm hole, waits for the beating to end, leaps down before the vultures descend, or the wolves begin chewing on his bones.
The dog licks his wounds. He concentrates on breath, slow and funneled through the silence that he knows. He paws at holes.
A cow bellows. Her baby, still slick in afterbirth, strangled by a lasso, desperately seeking her mother, who is chained to the back of a bulldozer, dragged over the soil of worm holes.
No name dog watches through his swollen eye, red on the white of a lamb in the field. Her baby nestled close by, painted in splashes of her mother’s red. The baby, breathless, screams from the inside, watches her mother’s skin ripping while still alive. The boy’s shadow plumbs holes.
A goat screams from the bottom of an abandoned well. No name dog hears. The sparrow knows.
He was raking worm holes.
The sparrow swoops down to inspect, clutches a worm in her claw, returns to the nest against the wave in the wind the gunshot made.
The boy returns with gasoline and a cigarette. Rubbing his right ear in fresh earth of worm holes, no name dog in flames, his swollen eye sees the sparrow whistling lamentably an animal farm incantation:
May your ash swiftly settle in the voice of burn.
Be certain. Tall. Rise up in flame.
I am the least of all, but you were still less,
no name at all.
Clear to him, no name in flames, what the sparrow is free to see and be.
He stands on his three legs and his missing paw.
The ghosts of the animal farm swell up through worm holes, disembodied voices chanting:
I live in the strained strands of your ocular muscle.
I live in the creamy cerumen of your ear canal.
I live in the pores of your nostril.
I am more than a bloody stain.
I live in the fragile film of your oral mucosa.
Speak my name.
Andrea Collins, “Tough Girl”