Birds on a Wire

by belinda

So many feelings, but so difficult to express them. They sit bundled up beneath her skin, like flies trapped against a window. Like a tangle of white cords, with nowhere to plug into. Is this how non-writers feel? What do they do with these feelings, if they don’t write them down? Do they disappear back into the body, like a pimple that isn’t popped? Poison sent back down into the self again, because the carrier does not have the means to release it.

The rain sits in droplets on the bright orange of a flower. The birds play on a wire. The kettle boils again, sometimes only because the sound comforts her, and not because she even needs the tea. It is the ritual that soothes her, not the warm drink. Once the tea bag is strained and squeezed, the honey is stirred and the warm mug is held in both of her hands, sometimes she does not even need the liquid itself. It sits cooling on her bedside table until she flushes it down the sink, washes the cup, dries it and puts it back into the cupboard.

For once she cannot even read. Books hold no grace like they used to. Poetry she devours, but novels, with their characters in a pre-virus world, seem obsolete. Instead there is joy in unexpected places. Silly memes. Washing her children’s hair. Scrubbing a breadboard until it shines. Raking dead leaves into a green bag. Some part of her knows that she should reach out and connect more with other humans, but another bigger part of her is retreating even further into herself.

The doves are making that noise she remembers from when she was young. It’s a song. The doves are fine. The humans are not. In fact, when she sees the birds wheel and rejoice in an empty sky – she feels a brief flash of hate at their freedom. In the next instant that feeling softens into admiration.

Whenever she thinks of birds, she thinks of her mother, and the day after her death. When she was begging for a sign from anywhere, that wherever her mother was, that she was okay. The pain was so acute that it seared her throat. As she sat weeping on the verandah, a giant crane rose up from five metres away, so graceful that it took her breath away. Grieving humans look for signs as comfort. This was her sign and this was her comfort – nature had provided it. She watched the bird ascend into a grey sky, and knew her mother was okay. That she would be okay, in the end.

So yesterday when she saw those birds, she wanted to believe that they were also a sign, that the world would be okay once again. But perhaps she is older now, and more jaded, because instead of believing it was a sign, she simply saw birds.

She doesn’t know if anything will be okay.

The tiny brown bird flits on to the orange flower outside her window, buries its whole head beneath the sharp petals, drinks the nectar, like its the sweetest thing she’s ever tasted.

She doesn’t so much hate the bird anymore. She just wants to be one.

It flies off again, taking its compact body joyfully along with it.

She gets up, walks to the kitchen, boils the kettle, makes another cup of tea that she will not drink.

The birds fly. The humans sit. The day continues.

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2 comments

Keri Bainborough May 3, 2020 - 6:20 pm

Love 😭😭😭😍😍😍

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Emily May 4, 2020 - 4:27 pm

These last few days have been tough. I think it is because we anticipated a change with level 4, and, yes, there is one, but it also feels restrictive — the hours allowed, the curfew (unnecessary because we are already under stay at home rules.) I feel for you. I am also feeling stuck. Good for you for writing about it. I always feel so much better for having articulated what worries me.

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