As the van drew away, I thought about my bird,
Never expecting that I’d seen the last of him — or my home.
Young as I was, I thought my life would never change; blue,
Open skies ought to be permanent. I’d met death —
Nearly everyone learns what it’s like to feel a corpse grow stiff,
Exquisitely, beneath your fingers — but those were fish. These rooms
Carried the stench of industrial cleaners. Plywood-furniture-filled rooms,
Air exhaled by thousands of lost children. Outside, the bright birds
Never guessed our confinement. At night, I lay stiff,
Seeping silent tears, dreaming of home.
And no, I did not idealize it. Parental love can die.
Young children can become a burden when they are broken, or blue.
I adjusted: worked in the barn, in the fields; developed bluish,
Looping circles beneath my eyes. I cowered in my night-black room,
Obsessively praying to be left alone for once. I craved death
Vainly, knowing my father would not allow me back. My bird,
Excited singer, slowly starved in my empty room at home.
You see, they forgot to go in and feed it. Mom found him, stiff,
Open-beaked at the bottom of the cage. Her voice was stiff,
Under pressure, when she called to tell me. The blue
Plastic handle of a knife was jammed beneath my ear. This home
Rescued damaged children. We were never in a room,
Or on the phone, alone. My rapist said that my bones were like a bird’s:
Visible, easily broken. I didn’t weep for this particular death.
I was too burnt-out already. Death
Never seemed so good to me as it did then. I envied the stiff,
Gaunt exit of my sweet-plumed bird.
I didn’t make the connections you are making. His blue,
Tangled feathers, his warbling song, smothered in my cinderblock room.
They (my parents) never listened for his distress. I was not missed at home,
At least not until they saw that their home
Kept its trouble without its scapegoat. No death
Evacuated me from the hell inside those rooms.
She came to me every night, grinning, her fingers hooked stiff,
Waiting for the pleasure of wounding. At school they asked why I was blue.
Ordained in my own foulness, I deflected: blamed my sorrow on the bird.
Religiously, my parents called — at first. Home-voices filled the blue room.
Kept in my body stiff, I prayed to death, ‘Make me a bird!’
Bethany W Pope is an award-winning writer. She has published four poetry collections. Her first novel, Masque, shall be released by Seren this June. Her fifth collection, The Rag and Boneyard, shall be released by Indigo Dreams later this month. You can read more about her at her website.