When my birds saw me they would take to the air with a great clapping of wings and they would sing HALLELUJAH!! When I let them out of their cage, they would stream by me with joy and gratitude, and I would lose myself in their feathers, and in the beating of their wings. Then I would lie on my back and cover myself in birdseed, and I‘d watch their pretty shadows as they settled all around me with their soft sharp feet and their soft brushing feathers and their soft cooing voices saying “Hallelujah, coo hoo coo, hallelujah.”
I don’t say hallelujah when the guard comes by. I don’t say much of anything any more, any more. How I used to yell and holler. I’d holler myself hoarse. I’d curse and swear and threaten. But it was all foolishness, because here I still am, with no voice at all. I never had any voice at all.
They picked me up by the side of the road. I was standing on the wayside and the wind began to blow. I was trying to get back home, just trying to get home. The sky on one side stayed bright as day, but along the other it was dark and purpling like a bad bruise. The trees were caught up in the glow, but their leaves were all turned upside down, stark and white against the dark sky. The weather was coming, it was coming fast.
I thought about my birds, I started to run. They don’t like the stormy weather, the thunder and lightening. I’d lie with them, in their small cote, and keep them safe, and watch the wind wilding like the end of times, dark as night except for the stark staring flashes. And they kept me warm with their bright eyes and their racing worrying hearts.
When the rain came and I saw the car’s flashing lights in the darkness, I started to run, and they picked me up. I thought they’d give me a ride home, but that’s not where they took me. I said, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” And they laughed a mean laugh and said, “We all done something wrong, son.” All I could think about was my birds. With no one to let them out, no one to feed them. Nobody to see them through the storm. I screamed about them. I yelled about my birds, how someone had to let them fly, someone had to feed them. But they thought I was crazy. They said, “There ain’t no birds, son, you shut your mouth.” And in here you’d start to believe them. You’d start to believe that there are no birds, that there is nothing good in the world. Except then why did I have this terrible aching pain? Why did I have that? I yelled about the birds singing HALLELUJAH! I yelled hallelujah till I lost my voice completely. I yelled it till the word lost all meaning. The word has no meaning for me any more. The world has no meaning for me anymore.
And now I don’t scream and holler. I don’t make a noise. Nobody’s listening. If I go home now I’d have to see the state of my birds, and I don’t want to do that. It’s too late for that. They come to me in dreams, sometimes, bright pure spirits, beating hearts with wings and nothing else. Sometimes they carry me out of here and I fly free with them. Sometimes they drop me from a great height in their anger; how could they not be angry for what I did to them? I used to think of them as angels, but not any more. I never think of angels any more. I think of them as living flying creatures that I kept in a cage, that spent their whole lives slowly dying in mesh and wire.