Birdcages

by Ella Shively

The basement is where I keep my dreams.

There’s a poet there, too, preserved between pressed pages. He says,“hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

He can talk about dreams all he wants. I am already a broken-winged bird.

I pace my house slump-shouldered, a tattered blanket dragging behind me like a tail with molting feathers. I perch on this dusty windowsill and watch the world I can no longer be a part of. I’ve lost everything–my power, my fame, my wealth, maybe even my mind. I cannot fly. Still, I hold fast to my dreams.

I keep them chained to the basement walls. I’ve sedated them with morphine and locked them in birdcages. I hide the biggest, oldest, most dangerous dreams in a gilded cage that will only open with a retinal scan from my third eye. I clip their wings so they cannot fly away. The world outside this house is a dangerous place for dreams.

Every evening, I sweep the floor of the feathers they’ve plucked from their bodies. Sometimes I wake to the sound of their squawking and shrieking, cawing and crying, but I will not let them go free. I hold fast to dreams.

About the Author

Ella currently live and work in Ashland, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Superior. Their writing has been published in the Northland College Mosaic and aired on Wisconsin Public Radio.