The Bird That Never Flew

The Bird That Never Flew


This wee bird couldnae fly,
Poor wee chookie bird
With its grey flat eyes
Tracing a dreaming trajectory
Over spiky tenement roofs
Which pierce
But do not penetrate
The leaden, dead-end sky.

These buildings,
A clutter of bricks, thick
With a century’s scum of soot
And oxidised sulphur,
Stinking of hellfire.
These tenements,
Like gravestones in rows,
Like soldiers
Shambling out to war.

These houses, these slums
Housing the countless thousands:
The workers, the toilers, the makars,
Those who made this city,
Those whose hands
Built the ships
And manned the factories,
Those whose voice
Was never heard –
Each and every one of them
A puir wee wingless bird.

* * *

Puir wee chookie birdie,
What chance
What chance did she ever have?

Those bastard preachers and dominies
Clipped her wings
And cut her up
With metal things.

Then they stuffed the wounds
With sawdust and glue,
Filled her head
With loathing and fear
And told her what
And what not to do –
Thou shalt not
Became her only creed.

Puir wee birdie,
She never had a chance.
Puir wee birdie
Wasn’t allowed to dance,
Wasn’t allowed
To feel the feathered winds
In her hair,
Wasn’t allowed to care less,
Wasn’t allowed to undress
And taste the naked freedom
Of the sky.

Puir wee chookie birdie –
I hear her caged-bird song,
Plaintive as foghorns
On the Clyde’s forgotten dawn.

Dee Sunshine
Illustration Nick Victor

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