Illustration: canary cage in a coal mine


Perhaps I landed on your shoulder of my own accord. Perhaps I let you catch me. Perhaps neither of us understood what it would do to deny me the arcing sweep of sky.

Consider the dove, the lovebird, the whippoorwill. Consider the heron, the sharp-eyed hawk, the royal cardinal. Consider the seagull, the starling, the swallow, the owl’s wings beating like a heart bathed in moonlight.

Consider blue. Consider the ecstasy of flight.

Consider the canary haunting its perch in this cage, in this coalmine.

Feathers filthy. Chirp, and dignity, gone.

The ladder out almost invisible, laid into the jagged rocks. Rungs rickety, splintered.

Consider the phoenix. Iridescent plumage a-crumble.

Consider the mountain tops, blasted away.

That old story of rising.

Tell it to these crumbling walls. Tell it to the pick-axes, carving. Tell it to my tarnished face, my blistered eyes. Tell it to the shining vein of ore we descended this cave seeking.


Carrying up through the ballast and striated shale, the pavement and concrete, the hard-scrabble soil, carrying along the air I miss so dear.

Here are all the songs I write for you but cannot sing.

Sara Rauch is the author of WHAT SHINES FROM IT: STORIES. Her writing has appeared in Paper Darts, Hobart, Split Lip, So to Speak, upstreet, Inkwell, Earth’s Daughters, and more. She lives in Massachusetts. Twitter: @sararauch

Cage illustration by C.B. Auder.

NEXT – Midwinter


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