African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Effie Lee Newsome, "The Bird in the Cage" (1927)

The Bird in the Cage

This poem received Honorable Mention in The Crisis Prize contest of 1926.

I AM not better than my brother over the way,
But he has a bird in the cage and I have not,
It beats its little fretted green wings
Against the wires of its prison all day long.
Backward and forward it leaps,
While summer air is tender and the shadows of leaves
Rock on the ground,
And the earth is cool and heated in spots,
And the air from rich herbage rises teeming,
And gold of suns spills all around,
And birds within the maples
And birds upon the oaks fly and sing and flutter.
And there is that little green prisoner,
Tossing its body forward and up,
Backward and forth mechanically!
I listen for its hungry little song,
Which comes unsatisfying,
Like drops of dew dispelled by drought
O, rose bud doomed to ripen in a bud vase!
O, bird of song within that binding cage!
Nay, I am not better than my brother over the way,
Only he has a bird in a cage and I have not.

Published in The Crisis, February 1927

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