The Caged Bird Caterwauls – A Pantoum

I know why the caged bird sings
Sour sweet melodies of human maladies
Vibrating out into the fractured world
There is no accompanying harmony

Sour sweet melodies of human maladies
Poetic squawks implored yet ignored by broken ears
There is no accompanying harmony
When the free birds don’t want change

Poetic squawks implored yet ignored by broken ears
She caterwauls until the cage shatters
When the free birds don’t want change
Her powerful voice portends the power of action

She caterwauls until the cage shatters
Vibrating out into the fractured world
Her powerful voice portends the power of action
This is why the caged bird sings*

A late response to Patrick’s Pic and a Word #201 – Fractured this week. Patrick’s poem about “fractured memories altered with time…[manipulated] to serve the present” stumped me for a while. His words ring true – especially since truth seems like such a rare commodity these days. Even the priest at my church today spoke of the importance of truth and to stay away and not believe the “King of Lies” (aka the Devil or Satan).

Jamie Dedes’ Wednesday Writing Prompt asked the question: Does poetry make a difference? My response with this poem is a resounding “YES!” especially when poetry speaks one’s truth and leads to action. How many speeches delivered by great civil rights leaders and activists read and sound like poetry? How many of their words inspired and strengthened and called to action people who might have otherwise stood by the sidelines? Conversely, how many poets have written/spoken words that inspired and strengthened and called to action? One such poet was Maya Angelou.

The first and last line of this pantoum is the same* (as the form requires) and comes from Maya Angelou’s literary autobiography of the same name. This book is part of the Feminist Book Title Challenge from Christine at Brave and Reckless. Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was a poet/writer/activist whose words and work centered the reality and truth of her African American female experience. Her poem, “Still I Rise,” is my current mantra especially after reading about the recent incidents of gun violence perpetrated by white supremacists in the USA, as well as the unfettered proliferation of anti-immigrant policies.

Maya Angelou also wrote a poem titled, “Caged Bird” (1983), which has the following refrain:

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill 
Of things unknown but longed for still 
And his tune is heard on the distant hill for 
The caged bird sings of freedom. 

* Edited 8/27/2019

I changed the last line of the poem from the original “I know why the caged bird sings” to its current form “This is why the caged bird sings.” While I know it breaks the Pantoum form, I felt the message (of the need for poets to continue to raise their voices especially in times of injustice) superseded the form. I hope you agree! (If not, please let me know! The editing process is a continuous one….😁).

©️ iido 2019

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22 thoughts on “The Caged Bird Caterwauls – A Pantoum

  1. The format is very interesting and you made it even more interesting Irma by discussing an issure which is very relevant today. I just made a short visit back home and it saddened me to to see how our country has become since i left. I fear for the future of our youth back home and i fear that they may just be like a caged bird, out in the streets shouting for change, but chane may never actually happen.

    Does poetry makes a difference?..without a doubt yes….

    Liked by 1 person

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