Brown Sparrow was asleep in a linden tree when the first suicide bomber blew up. The two following implosions shook her body. She didn’t pause to breathe but left the linden tree and flew along the Canal de St. Denis, past the honey locusts, horse chestnuts, mimosas and Empress trees on the Boulevard Voltaire. She flew over Le Bataclan. There was no refuge tonight in Paris.
The little brown sparrow was not a dove, but being a sturdy creature whose ancestors had survived Robespierre, she undertook a journey to Syria.
Syria was a mess, just rocks and ruin. Not a tree in sight. She flew past Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir al-Zour until she reached Palmyra, and finally a public square. And there she found the chief archaeologist of antiquities, al-Asaad of Palmyra, his bloody body strung up with red twine by its wrists from a traffic light, his eighty-three-year-old head resting beneath his feet, eyeglasses still on.
Brown sparrow alighted on his shoulder and began to sing about his daughter Zenobia, whom he’d named after an ancient, warrior queen. Then she caught the soul of al-Asaad and carried it to heaven in Aphrodite’s chariot.
And, briefly, the world stopped and listened to her song of love and mourning.
Lucinda Kempe’s work has been published or is forthcoming in r. kv.r.y., Jellyfish Review, Summerset Review, Matter Press’s Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, decomP, and Corium. She won the Joseph Kelly Prize for Creative Writing in 2015 and is an M.F.A. candidate in writing and creative literature at Stony Brook University.