THE TRAPPED BIRD
by Lisa Segal
I once watched a bird in the gutter across the street from me
trying to fly away. A car was parking on top of it. Its wings
opened-closed, opened-closed, thrusting towards the sky,
opening-closing, its back end under the wheel of a car parallel
parking on top of it. At the Stage Deli, seated at a sidewalk table,
I watched the car parking. Back and forth, back and forth.
Parking. Back and forth, on top of the bird.
This happened long ago, though not so long ago,
that I was a child, or even a young woman.
I was already quite a person, or at least,
trying to be one. My heart hurts.
Because I saw it? In spite of all that New Yorkness?
The honking, rolling, clinking, blowing, walking, scraping,
laughing, climbing, blinking, dropping, talking, pouring,
crying, crowding, riding, pressing? Because I saw those
white wings opened, extending? The look of disbelief?
The undauntedness of spirit as it tried again?
The inevitability of outcome? Because, unmoved,
I finished my slice of cheesecake? Or, is it that as the bird
turned to me, I looked away? It’s that I looked away.
My heart hurts. I look away. This is it, the truth of me.
I look away. When my heart hurts I look away.
Sadness under the wheel of a car, I look away.
From the pain of others. I look away when I don’t know
what to do. I look away. Like that New York day when
I looked away, when I decided to act like it wouldn’t matter.
For a moment, before turning my head, before returning
to the pickles and packets of sugar on my tabletop,
before requesting another cup of coffee, before continuing
my conversation of no consequence, before I got myself
back to the safety of non-feeling, it was the bird and me,
New York vanishing into an overblown, bleached-out silence,
both of us in the gutter, alive, struggling not to give up,
trying to rise, wanting to fly. How I wish I hadn’t turned away,
that I had forgotten about my cheesecake, that I had allowed
the bird to take refuge inside of me. Instead, I fell into it.
I’m still there, in that gutter. Trapped. Run over.
I wish I hadn’t shut myself down, that I hadn’t turned away.
That day, I was the high place, the harbor.
It was looking for me. But I averted my eyes.
I averted myself, like I do. Like I do when I don’t know
what to do. Like I do, when I don’t know what to do.
My heart feels like a gloved fist pounding raw meat.
Beats like that bird still trying to fly.
I am caught in the heart of a trapped bird.
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Lisa Segal, a poet/writer/artist, has lived in Los Angeles for more than thirty years. "THE TRAPPED BIRD" was first published in her book, METAMORPHOSIS: Who is the Maker? An Artist’s Statement (published by Bombshelter Press <http://www.bombshelterpress.com>), which includes her poetry, prose, and photographs of her sculptures. She won the 2017 Los Angeles Poet Society Poetry Month Contest. She teaches poetry and writing as part of the Los Angeles Poets & Writers Collective and is a member of StudioEleven, an artist-run cooperative. Her poems appear, or are forthcoming, in Cultural Weekly, Serving House Journal, The Mas Tequila Review, Spectrum, ONTHEBUS, Poeticdiversity, FRE&D and elsewhere.