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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 29, 2017.
About this Poem 

“I’ve been wounded by and obsessed with my own complicity in caging myself inside gender and societal expectations, but as I thought about the horrible things that have happened historically to women who didn’t conform, as well as the insidious ways people of all genders are indoctrinated, I began to have a gentler understanding of why I might have at times confused societal norms for my own desires. I wondered, then, if I could ever be free, and when I closed my eyes, I saw a vision of all the conforming and nonconforming parts of myself as many birds in one cage. In the vision, the cage was weak and flimsy—so far less consequential than what was inside it—that I realized even if I could not yet fully free myself, I could give the cage itself wings and still fly.” 
—Melissa Studdard

Everyone in Me Is a Bird

Mind was a prison, ruby lined
in its lipstick noir—everything woman
I was expected to be, trapped between
papered walls. What they said to do, I did not
but only levitated at the burning,
 
the body a water in which I drowned, the life
a windshield dirty with love. What they
said to think, I thought not but instead made
my mind into a birdcage with wings 

 

 

 

 

(Title is from an Anne Sexton Poem.)

Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Studdard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Studdard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Melissa Studdard

Melissa Studdard

Melissa Studdard is the author of I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast (Saint Julian Press, 2014). She teaches at Lone Star College-Tomball and lives in Houston, Texas.

by this poet

poem

Because her body is winter inside a cave
because someone built
fire there and forgot to put it out
because bedtime is a castle
she’s building inside herself
with a moat
and portcullis
and buckets full of mist
because when you let go
the reins
horses
tumble over