I have a bird in
my heart too.

I realized it in 2004
when your poem
came across my desk
in the form of an assignment.

I’ve often wondered
how you would feel
knowing your work was used
in pretty university classrooms
where fresh faced liberal arts-ers
furrowed their brows and

Felt seen.

And I felt seen.
And so did my little bird.

She fluttered against my
splintering breast bone,
somehow rousing herself
from the steady diet of
self-hatred and
world hatred and
cheap ass screwdrivers.

(I swear the vodka I
used for those could have been
hospital disinfectant.)

Like you,
I’d let her out when no one
was looking, but
I was just a good fuck,
not someone with a
bird in her heart.

So we,
my little bird and I,
kept punching our card
with cock after cock,
drink after drink.
Not because we liked it,
but because when we let them
put their hands around our necks
we could pretend to die.

For just a moment.


Did you ever
figure it out, Charles?
(Can I call you Charles?)
Did you ever clear your lungs
of smoke long enough for
your bird to breathe?
Could your liver offer him more than a
jaundiced song?


I’m older now—
switched out
cheap ass vodka for
red wine dark as pools
that once surrounded my wrists
and good bourbon that scorches my
throat with each sip to remind me that
I have a throat worth more than
stranger hands that helped me
pretend to die.

(But I don’t drink it nearly as often.)

I’m learning the self-hatred was misplaced, and
why didn’t I hate the rapist who took everything:

all the things that made life
worth living?

And even though I don’t hate myself,
as much, I still hate the world sometimes.
How can you not?


against all odds,

I’ve settled
with kids
who fill all the cracks with
liquid gold and have become

all the things that make life
worth living.

And I desperately do not
want their birds to stay
hidden in their hearts.
Because the thought of them,
turning out like us,

that’s enough to make
a woman weep.


unlike you,
I do weep and
I am tough enough to
let my bird out for more
than a night.

And I’m beginning
to realize, finally,
my heart was never a cage.

It has always been a perch.

Image credit:cocoparisienne

Sarah Stoltzfus Allen is a mom, poet, and chronic tea drinker. She's been published in random places all over the internet, a couple of anthologies, and her chapbook, The Darks and the Lights, will be published in 2023 by Finishing Line Press.