Sheila-Na-Gig online


Elya Braden

Elya Braden is a writer and mixed-media artist living in Ventura County, CA, and is Assistant Editor of Gyroscope Review. She is the author of the chapbooks, Open The Fist (2020) and The Sight of Invisible Longing, a semi-finalist in Finishing Line Press’s New Women’s Voices Competition (forthcoming 2023). Her work has been published in Calyx, Prometheus Dreaming, Rattle Poets Respond, Sequestrum, Sheila-Na-Gig online, The Coachella Review and elsewhere. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Best New Poets.

Flutter and Fight

~Hope is the thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson

Of course, she refused
to speak, only glowed mute
yellow, shrieked
and slammed
her green-tipped wings
against the bars that bound
her world, bolted
for the ceiling, banged
against the bedroom
window, the sun peeking
in under a red ruffle,
every time I snaked
my small hand in to clean
her cage, smooth down
a fresh page of the news
of the day.

Who doesn’t rage
against the limitations
that define our lives?
Don’t we all want
to devour that extra
slice of chocolate cake
and not gain an ounce?
Don’t we all want to run
that almost red light, arm
wrestle the Grim Reaper
for another year
or two?

I never wanted a bird,
all flutter and fight.
In a home where my mother
waved a doorway goodnight
while my father smoked
and glowered in the den,
I craved touch, fondled
the black velvet skirt hanging
in my mother’s closet, slept
with my aging, eyeless Leo,
skooched too close
to my father’s friend
on our den couch, me
in pink pajamas, unable
to sleep, my skin as urgent
for connection
as an unplugged lamp.

I’d begged for a gerbil,
something small and furry,
a fistful of cuddle.
I’d imagined its tiny nose
twitching kisses on my cheek.
But gerbils were outlaws
in California and so,
the parakeet—Polly
of the stone tongue,
Polly dreaming always
of sky, Polly who, like me,
saw every open door
as a welcome mat
to freedom.


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