The Cage with No Corners

by Pj Metz

 

You buy a beautiful, intelligent bird and put it in an elegant round top cage. As gorgeous as it seems, birds aren’t meant for round cages. They get disoriented, they get angry, they get depressed. A round cage offers no home, no place to rest and catch your bearings. For a bird used to branches and an open world full of angles, the round cage is a coffin.

I watched my aunt’s Cockatoo with clipped wings struggle in the round cage.

I wanted to help it, but my aunt said it’s for the bird’s well being. So I watched it struggle, and flutter, and sharpen its beak.

Yesterday toward work, along the street, under a broad snowglobe sky, I noticed for the first time flowers springing out everywhere. My head has been buried since February counting the steps (539) to my subway station and 11-hour-a-day job. Looking up I discover a row of struggling yet successful flora. Pink and white and red and yellow doing nothing for months and finally breaching into air with triumphant arms outstretched to greet the golden sun. As if all it takes to bloom unbound is the desire to do so.

I watched my aunt’s Cockatoo with clipped wings struggle in the round cage.

I wanted to help it, but my aunt said it was to keep us safe. So I watched it struggle, and flutter, and sharpen its beak.

In a city metro we keep to ourselves, the isolation of looking different and barely speaking the language heightened by the obscenity of eye contact or smiling. Row after row of silent bodies in the chairs where I am squeezed between a malevolent manspreader and an agitated Ajjuma. My existence is a blister to those around me and I almost stand to apologize to the crowd, my voice bleeding emotion foreign to the train, “I’m sorry if I ruined your day. Mianhamnida.” Instead, I stand to leave, the flat line of my mouth parallel to the tracks.

I watched my aunt’s Cockatoo with clipped wings struggle in the round cage.

I wanted to help it, but my aunt said that the bird was an asshole and tried to bite her work friend during dinner the other night.

So I watched it sit still, and drink water, and sharpen its beak.

Each step is another nail, each rising staircase is another let down and I am dragged up to the depths of my depression. I came here for life and truth and experiences and now six days a week I entertain children with language games they don’t understand while they wish for a field trip. The oppressive cold grabs me and shoves me with each dreadful step up a staircase I’ve come to loath. I emerge from my jacket as I settle into my chair. I tilt back and I look up and see the four corners of the ceiling and an open door. “Have some coffee, Teacher!” A warm cup and a bright smile and my coworkers are sharing stories and laughing. I say thank you for the coffee and smile back.

I watched my aunt’s old Cockatoo try to fly around my apartment. His wing feathers are regrowing well.

I watched it flutter, drink water, and cautiously eat snacks from my hand in its new home.

 

Philip “Pj” Metz is a poet from Orlando, Florida. He started writing in earnest during his time teaching English in Busan, South Korea, while immersed in the expat literary scene. He continues to write in Florida while teaching high school literature classes. Pj believes that sincere and honest art is our best method of expressing our truest selves.