“Hope is the thing with Feathers”
I read that poem over and over,
making sense of it in a new way
Hope is a bird, that much
I pieced together without prompting.
And you never could reach out and touch one,
so it fit.
The birds were always on the other side of glass
a promise cut off. I reached for that hope
but you can’t own it,
open the cage door and it flies away.
And I thought, yes, this
Hope was like the sparrows my cat caught,
toyed with, let live just long enough for the light
in their eyes to die.
Hope was like the bushtits, tiny and frail
brought down by January wind.
And I wondered, why call Hope a song bird,
something easily killed,
a lump of feathers and a tiny heart?
But they come back, too, see?
The wild ones, migrating home,
following the wind currents and the sun.
Maybe, some desperate part of me said,
things would really get better, if I hung on.
The poem keeps going,
past what’s written on plaques, speaking of storms.
My own storm,
full of lightning cuts and salt spray,
seemed too much,
but in the end I still breathed,
birdsong echoing in my ears.
Hope might be the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
but the poem sits in my heart and mind,
tiny talons clinging, tangling themselves in wild hair.
Sometimes the bird’s muted, far off,
but the tune has no end,
a hermit thrush’s backwards waterfall--
a chickadee calling her own name.
Hope is a songbird mama,
pulling out her own feathers to cushion my bones
scraped against each other,
nesting there until I am strong enough to stand.
Hope is the lark’s wings, beating the wind
like a heart against ribs
Hope is the light of galaxies
not stuck in the sky but across a starling’s back
Hope is the thing with feathers,
the bird come home, returning to sing
a song I cannot forget the words to.