Michael and Mary

My brother takes the cage from the mantle and places it on the hearth.
We watch them twitter and hop,
branch to branch.
They dip their heads in the water,
shaking as though they fervently disagree with our plans,
spilling and dripping onto the newspaper,
darkening the brick.

I sit on the edge,
turmeric-stained kitchen towel on my lap.
We watch them for a while, noticing the blackness of their eyes,
the glory of their coloration,
and the baffling, perennial nervousness that only small birds, rodents, and the abused seem to share.

As my brother reaches for the gate, they each find a corner,
avoiding an imminent reaching, grasping, petting hand.
They experience no hand and instead see a rectangular space
where no wire exists: an opening, a hole. The air that their kind so readily recognize.

Blue and green, they burst from the cage.
Their clipped wings and life of resigned inactivity cause them to veer and surge unpredictably,

but this is what we love.

In their panicked escape, they dive and arc, roll and crash.

We chase them with desperate joy,
towels in hand,
pretending to be unable to reach them,

only to prolong our pleasure.

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