Inspired by Maya Angelou’s, ‘I know why the caged bird sings’, I decided a write a short story about the backbone of the poem. I was so moved after reading such emotional piece of writing, I decided to research the history and inspiration that went behind writing the piece. The poem itself is about two birds; one caged and the held captive, symbolising slavery during the slave trade in 17th century America.
The things unknown:
Cautiously she draws the curtains apart and gazes through the cloudy window of her modest room. Out in the fields, the early cotton workers are busily gathering the harvest before the winter sets in and sends every living creature back into dwellings awaiting the return of spring. The squirrels have long packed their granaries and the sun is showing signs of ageing. All along, the busy summer provided the living with growth and the suffering with comfort. But now, it needs a rest and plans a long break.
On her window sill, a bird perched itself half asleep, soaking his wings in the last gasps of the summer rays. Its eyes dreamy and drunk as they contemplate the vastness of the sky that it owns. In the tainted glass, she glimpses her own reflection. A lonely figure, almost invisible, yet trapped and caged between the walls of a room caving in on her. She reminisces about her life as a child growing freely in the homeland of the sun where elephants trumpeted freely across the savannahs along the tall, elegant giraffes. Her peaceful walk to school across a lush nature reserve and the gathering of smiling faces bearing their white teeth at her as she steps through the playground gates. Why did this have to end so abruptly?
The violent journey on the boat across the rough seas ripped her from her roots and planted her in a sour land where hope and opportunity no longer recognised her. Years of serving the rich and powerful have made her veins swell under her skin like rambling ivies clenching onto her, trapping her inside herself. Years of slavery aged her quickly but with her wings clipped and her feet tied, she envies the little bird on her window sill which now has noticed her frozen shadow and fluttered away to join its companions chirping contentedly across the hills far and wide. She tries to open her mouth and call the winged creature back but soon remembers the wings of her voice have long withered and died and vanished with the thousand and one nights she cried herself to sleep.
Speechless and sad, she gazes through her wet eyes out across the empty fields. The workers have turned in for the night and the birds are now roosting in total tranquillity.
How she longs to sprout invisible wings to hoist her on the last, fading rays of the departing sun if only to carry her back to the land of her childhood – to the land of living dreams where once her voice echoed gleefully across the air with other children.
The night has fallen spreading its shadows across the land and painting her walls with a tinge of rich dark blue. The moon emerges from behind the clouds painting each with a silver lining. A feeling of hope wells up inside her, flooding her very heart, soul and mind with blissful exultation.