every day at three pm
the chime rings and
most of us ignore it.
we are sitting in front
of it; he in his wheelchair
and me standing, nervous,
moving  from side to side
with clench palm, straw inside,
unable to commit to the chair
I placed at the entrance of
the cage.

the birds in the aviary
smell their own shit all day and
think the bell is a taunting God
clanging from a distance to keep time
of their blinkered sentence.
they have flown less than one mile,
tired out on plastic branches
picking each other’s imagined nits;
stick legs and beady eyes that,
if bigger,
would reflect a melancholy
I always thought that myself,
or the willows wore best
                  but they have a rival.

I consider lighting the whole thing on fire
so they can rise to the clouds with the smoke;
use their wings for something other than
beating back water
during forced bath time when
that satanic effigy
in a hazmat suit approaches and
I’d give them tiny tools:
tiny lighters, tiny bullets, gatling guns
and the wherewithal to fire them.
ice picks for the stabs and
the insults to go deeper.
I’d help haunt him.
but they are small, untrained,
and they’d just eat the things.
smell the irony
when the cage fills up with
bloody stool and the devil
in white comes back to wash
them out.

my apologies are inaudible.
outside looking in,
gawking, checking my phone
for the time, an old love letter,
avoiding my clients’ increasing mucus
in his cough,
his impending question.
(no missed calls)
             do you think Sarah?
          in his Polish accent,
            sleeve half covering his mouth to hide the yellow
                            discharge.
.               I have a tissue in my pocket, wilting.
            unprepared to think of anyone but myself
               at this time in my process.
             (check the time)

             but they don’t get words,
fertilized; little beaks poking through
spotted eggs and
above all else,
birds with clipped wings
avoid the despondency
that liberty brings.
that bell rings
and I want them to know
               that the birds think that bell is a God?
                  muted sniffle.
                 I move past the withering Kleenex,
                      his equally decaying stare,
                         to check the time again
                      (no new voicemails)

that bell rings and
I want them to know
just how badly freedom hurts.

“the aviary”

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