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I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

By Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

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

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

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.

I know why the caged bird sings

A collaboration between Jodie Atherton and Nancy Marlatt.

“Primarily a 2D artist, I was excited to collaborate with Jodie who creates beautiful sculptures. My intuition was to create something resembling water because we are both interested in the study of water. I initiated the first part of our project and gave Jodie the opportunity to respond as seen in the final piece.” – Nancy Marlatt

“This piece, like so many other things I create, wasn’t originally going to be a birdcage. I wanted to make a spinning top, like a child’s toy. So I did. But, in my mind, I wanted it to look old and beat up and never once considered that it might need to be super-duper balanced to spin. Needless to say, it didn’t spin. Hum. Now what. I had already drilled a hole through the middle of Nancy’s piece she gave me to respond to. I had also glued things on the base so that needed to be addressed and incorporated. I wandered around my studio for a while, pondering what to cover the hole with. Nothing. I still wanted a top. I left my studio that day bummed. The next day I looked through my image files and saw a birdcage. It stuck. And, after attaching and using pliers to un-attach other parts of the previously mentioned top, this piece was created. And, when I called Nancy to tell her I came up with a new version, this poem sprung to mind. It fits the piece in more ways than I could imagine even without re-reading it before making this piece.”

© Jodie Atherton

I know why the caged bird sings 

Mixed media, found objects