Luisa A. Igloria

The Birdcage Maker

He comes up the walk to her door, whistling
and swinging his cartful of birdcages. They hang
from a pole in bare light, fingers of soft wood
whittled thin for holding in what could flutter
any moment from the field, through an open
window: brown sparrow, starling, plain house
finch drawn to the sill by a handful
of sunflower seeds. Kindness is the lure, a homing in.
Or perhaps it is the hunger— but is the one who waits
and watches, hungrier than the one who comes
to meet what’s offered? In a faraway country
the maya’s tongue is shaved so it can mimic
human speech. There are markets where you’ll find
hawkers of small marsh birds, trapped and sold
in reed baskets. What follows after? A thimbleful
of water every morning, an oilcloth cover. They pine
away, think the cry of a train in the night’s the loneliest
they’ve ever heard. When he pushes the gate open
and holds her hands, strokes her hair, she thinks she hears
the passing echo. What remembrance of himself
does he bring to harvest song from his new captive?
She wants to say: bring teak and rosewood, balsa,
orphaned twigs, pieces of driftwood found on the forest
floor or on a beach; here’s a house big enough for both
of us, with arms that can catch. Could we be
each other’s phoenix, at first all fiery feather, next
dressed in ashes; then lay down, cradling
the door of the soul, unhinged and flapping—
the only passageway through which
any winged thing, when it comes, might be born?



“The Birdcage Maker” first appeared in Fugue, summer 2004 (Fugue Poetry Prize winner), and is from Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005)