Resourceful, cheap, a little smug—I used to prowl yard sales for the unusual bird cage. I sought dormers and turrets, pagodas, onion dome castles . . . structures I adopted, then adapted, spray painting them in wavy gradations of color. I tucked them like sculptures among our perennials.
Soon, tendrils nosed through the grids,
swarmed the trays,
entwined hinges and doors.
Yesterday . . .
flitters, cheeps, manic thumps—
a trapped bird,
hurling itself from side to side.
I fumbled in vain with the door.
He rocketed toward the roof. And clung there.
If bird toes have knuckles, his turned white.
Gentle shaking failed to dislodge him.
Wings flailing, he wedged his head
through the bars of the ceiling—
clear to his downy throat.
Couldn’t go back. Couldn’t break free.
I eased the bird cage onto its side,
broke off the plastic tray.
Shards fell around us.
Half-strangled, his body went still.
Gasping, I righted the cage.
Gravity partnered with dead weight,
and this time, the captive slipped free.
Off he zoomed, leaving me in the wreckage:
- Busted plastic
- Marvel, at God’s timing
I had been party to harm. Which could have killed him.
This realization aligns with questions I’m asking myself about dead-weight thinking, the kind that seeps in, over time, unknowingly absorbed.
For instance, racist assumptions so ingrained they’ve dulled my awareness. I want equality for everyone. But like the cage, I am part of a structure that imperils others.
And like the bird, I’m scrabbling for footing. Can’t go back; gotta break free. No more looking the other way.
I’m no one’s savior. I look to God the Savior for how to proceed. I want my blind spots exposed, so I can lament and confess them, receive God’s forgiveness.
Transformation begins in my own backyard.
These tools are helping me:
- Coursera, online class (free): “Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History”
- Praying / listening /asking questions / thinking on paper / praying
- poem-a-day (free), featuring black poets through August (Read today’s here. Be sure to click the “about” caret)
And these poets:
Loretta Diane Walker: In This House, Phyllis Wheatly Book Award. Sample poem
Ross Gay: Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude, 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Sample Poem
Natasha Tretheway: Native Guard, 2007 Pulitzer Prize. Sample poem
Toi Derricotte: “i”: New and Selected Poems. Sample Poem
What resources are you discovering? Please tell me about writers who are speaking to you . . .