Reading for Pleasure

Caged Bird

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wing

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 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.

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.

Maya Angelou

This poem, published in 1983, describes the opposing experiences between two birds: one bird is able to live in nature as it pleases, while a different caged bird suffers in captivity. Due to its profound suffering, the caged bird sings, both to cope with its circumstances and to express its own longing for freedom. Using the extended metaphor of the two birds, Angelou paints a critical portrait of oppression in which she illuminates the privilege and entitlement of the un-oppressed, and conveys the simultaneous experience of suffering and emotional resilience. In particular, the poem’s extended metaphor can be seen as portraying the experience of being a member of the African American community.

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Sandra Dezi

Sandra Dezi has a Teaching Degree in English as a Foreign Language, a Bachelor’s Degree in Educational Technology at UTN, a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics in the field of TEFL at the European University of the Atlantic and Universidad Iberoamericana, Spain.