“Caged Bird” ~ A Freedom Song

When I received the invitation to come to Palestine for two months, I was immersed in reading Maya Angelou’s articulate and moving 7-volume autobiography. So, naturally, I brought the books with me to provide some diversion. Little did I know how much Maya’s story ~ particularly her involvement as an activist in the US civil rights movement ~ would parallel some of what I see and hear in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. While her story does not offer the diversion I seek, it offers much more ~ With gratitude for her witness, I quote here her poem which so eloquently portrays the expansiveness of freedom in stark contrast to the imprisonment of a cage ~ May it awaken and strengthen our commitment to freedom for all.

Birds in Flight ~ Photo Credit: Gerry Morgan

Free Birds
Credit: Gerry Morgan

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

Caged Bird ~ Birin Village ~ Occupied Palestine Photo Credit: Jan

Caged Bird
Birin Village ~ Hebron Governorate
Occupied Palestine
Photo Credit: Jan

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage 
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Free Birdsshutterstock.com

Free Birds
Credit: shutterstock.com

The free bird thinks
of another breeze
and the trade winds soft
through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting
on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

Caged Bird Occupied East Jerusalem Souk (Market) ~ Old City Photo Credit: Dawn

Caged Birds
Occupied East Jerusalem
Souk (Market) ~ Old City
Photo Credit: Dawn

But a caged bird stands
on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts
on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped
and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

 

Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird” from Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing? Copyright © 1983

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7 Responses to “Caged Bird” ~ A Freedom Song

  1. Shelagh says:

    I have read just about everything Maya has written. Her spirit runs deep and her empathy is the core of compassion. But what struck me even as I read her story was her resiliency and that all of life was a gratitude adventure. I pray that the Palestinians are as resilient. Although the bars are still present, may their spirits be liberated so that soon our shame and Israel’s will bring them down.

  2. Beautiful, Dawn! The poem captures all of the emotion I imagine of the Palestinians. Looking forward to your return.

  3. Esther Oaks says:

    I read a memoir written by Maya Angelou which contained this poem. What a perfect metaphor for the contained and imprisoned as you witness in Israel.

  4. Mary Alice Dooley says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful … And sadly moving!

    Mad

    Sent from my iPod

  5. Joanne Kenny says:

    Thank you for this very moving poem.

  6. Freedom is a choice, regardless of the cages we all live within. A beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing it, with its clear symbolism for the Palestinian people.

  7. Carolyn Mcdade says:

    waning crescent moon mid-autumn

    Dear Dawn,

    This is a powerful expression. Maya’s poetry, the photographs, and your experience which ties it all together. Carolyn

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