Bird Brains 

December 2019 Bird Brains

Published in The Bridge and Tunnel Crowd, Vol. 1 No.2

A quarter of a century ago, Toni Morrison told a story that began with children taunting a blind village outcast to respond if a bird in their hands was living or dead. Toni’s version had the bird representing language, and hovering in the space between the question and the answer is whether “word-working” remains worthwhile.

This year, a budgie showed up at our school, flying directly toward some students. They walked it to their teachers. By that night I was buying a cage and saving the receipt, hoping to return it once the words found a home.

A few days later I knocked into the cage. The language fell and snapped a blood feather. Staring at its wing turning red, Toni appeared: “So the question the children [put]: ‘Is it living or dead?’ is not unreal, because[an outcast] thinks of language as susceptible to death, erasure; certainly imperiled and salvageable only by an effort of the will.”

The question persists, since answers to a LOST BIRD post were all dead ends. My budgie did not bleed out (we took the feathers out with tweezers). More birds have been adopted, hoping that words may form sentences. The cage is gone. A cage is not your hands. In the mornings they sing from my studio beams, where I had lost a will for art, but not for pausing to hear what is coming now. 

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