I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Hola Everybody,
Anyone in the issue of the struggle against racialized social control and mass incarceration, should come hear us at Old Soul’s Church. For details, see the flyer below:


I usually leave the art stuff for Saturdays, but in preparing for tonight’s panel, I came across the following poem in my notes. It’s from a poet that not too many people may know about. Many people know of Maya Angelou’s memoir I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but not as many know of the poet who inspired the title, Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first African-American to gain national prominence as a poet. He died much too young, at 33, but his work is as fascinating as it is beautiful.

With that, I leave you with…



I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting —
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

— Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

* * *

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


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