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Poem: "Birds of a Feather" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "Birds of a Feather"

This poem came out of the November 5, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from Dreamwidth user Chanter_greenie.  It also fills the "family" square in my 10-6-13 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette as part of the half-price sale.  It belongs to the series Fledgling Grace.


Birds of a Feather


It was a lovely day
for a picnic in the park,
and the busker went
to her family reunion
with all good hope.

Even if nobody there
really wanted to see her,
she could always hang out
in the park and sing.

It was a big family,
so there were hundreds of people
spread across the green grass
and the pavilions full of picnic food.

It was a big family,
and a sea of sparrow feathers
as far as the eye could see,
dotted here and there
with dove wings and pigeons
and a few more exotic birds.

None of them wanted to sit with her,
or even stand to close, and it hurt
every time someone flipped their wings
and stepped hastily away.

The busker wrapped herself
in her leathern wings
and edged away from the crowd.

There was Great Uncle Thomas,
who seemed to like children
but whom nobody would allow to babysit
for reasons left unspecified,
sporting bat wings of his own.

He leered at her and
patted the bench beside him.

She walked out of the pavilion
without getting anything to eat
even though the food was free
and she was hungry.

Nobody tried to stop her from leaving,
or encouraged her to take a plate,
or said so much as a word.

They were birds of a feather
flocking together, and she
might be related but
apparently was no longer
considered kin.

Then she saw someone else
among the teenagers --
a cousin of some kind,
she thought he was,
though she could not recall
the exact connection --
with wings of pure white leather.

"What are you?" she asked,
even though it was rude,
even though she didn't want
to talk about her own
little brown bat wings.

He just grinned and said,
"I'm a Northern Ghost Bat.
They live in Honduras.
Kinda  makes you wonder
about family history, doesn't it?"

Then he spread his wings wide
and she could see the tattoos,
vivid as stained glass between the bones.

"They're beautiful," the busker said,
and it was the first time
she had said that about bat wings.

"So hey, you wanna split a watermelon
or something?" he asked,
and she couldn't help agreeing.

They ate together in companionable silence
until one of the grandfathers came over
and said, "You shouldn't be here.
Why don't you go over there
and sit with Thomas?"

"Because he's a monster,"
the cousin said coldly.
mantling his colorful wings.

"Never mind, I'm done anyway,"
the busker said, and walked away.

She didn't feel like singing,
so she left the park
with its flock of sparrowfolk
and walked through the city streets.

Presently she came to the church
kept by a priest whom she knew,
and an angel who had been a devil.
The doors were always open;
they didn't mind her coming in
to sit quietly in the pews.

The air smelled spicy with incense,
and the stained glass windows
reminded her of her cousin's wings.

She had been sitting there for a while
when the angel sat down beside her.
She leaned forward to let him
wrap his brown-and-gray wing
over her shoulders.

It was strange to think that this
sparrow-feathered risen devil
felt more akin to her now
than her own relatives,
yet so he did.

She leaned against him,
accepting the silent comfort.
Maybe, in a little bit,
she'd feel like singing again.

* * *

Notes:

Rejection and ostracism can be a serious problem at family gatherings or holidays, contributing to stress.  It often happens when someone is queer, abused, mentally ill, a different religion, etc. and is particularly common in toxic families.  Sometimes it takes the form of scapegoating.  A trend toward a culture of rejection increases problems.  Reconciliation is difficult but possible.  There are tips for coping with stressful family gatherings and overcoming family rejection.

Child abuse is a widespread problem, and an open secret in some families.  There are ways to recover from an abusive childhood.

You can read about the Honduran Northern Ghost Bat and see some pictures.

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