“Free As A Bird” (final blog version)
I originally wrote this as a proposal for an animated feature film, or a children’s book. I have always had an interest in the “down side” of freedom, which is not often spoken about. Maybe this “swimming against the tide” perspective is the reason this project has not been snapped up. I mentioned it in a recent blog post, so I thought I would pass it along. I hope you like it.
WARNING: Or, let’s say, because “WARNING” sounds so disturbing,
ADVISORY: This poem is of a substantial length. For optimal results, if you know how, you might want to print it up, and read it at your leisure.
“FREE AS A BIRD”
A PROPOSAL FOR AN ANIMATED FEATURE, OR CHILDREN’S BOOK
AS TOLD TO EARL POMERANTZ
I grew up in a cage, it’s not all that bad
I never knew my Mom or my Dad
Just a young pet store parrot whose colors are hot
Who’s completely content with the life that he’s got.
And then comes the day when this young girl named Pamela
Walks into the store with the rest of her famela.
(I know the word “famela’s” not really a word
But cut me some slack here, I’m only a bird.
She walks boredly past puppies, iguanas and cats
Shows no interest in goldfish, canaries or rats
Then with chances of finding a pet looking slim
She points straight up at me and proclaims, “I want him!”
I get bounced in a box, ‘til we come to a stop,
Then it’s suddenly bright when they open the top.
“What’s next?” I complain, in the grouchiest mood,
Why, a cage full of horrible… water and food.
I’m confused once again, but, this time, by great treatment,
They provide me with drink and most generous eatment.
Could the people who caused my domestic estrangement
Be the source of an even superior arrangement?
Kind of heart, ever thoughtful – they clean up my droppings.
When I run out of kibble, they immediately go shopping.
All they ask in return is I “parrot” their words,
Which is easy for me, ‘cause I’m that kind of bird.
In time, I forget just what all of the fuss meant,
Seems to me I have made a successful adjustment.
I feel home, very safe, and so well taken care of
Do I have any gripes? Not a-one I’m aware of.
And that’s just how I felt ‘til my life turned a page
On the day when the housekeeper cleaned out my cage.
An assignment young Pamela promised she’d do,
But the luster soon fades cleaning up parrot poo.
Taken out to the porch with my cage on its stand,
Guess the housekeeper thought that I needed a tan.
While she’s scouring my trays and re-papering my floor,
All I’m wondering’s “How soon can I go back indoors?”
I mean, sunshine is fine and, I guess, so’s fresh air,
And the noises and voices, and the stuff that’s out there.
But because of the way I was born and was raised,
I prefer watching life through a glass – doubled glazed.
Now the housekeeper leaves to go answer the phone.
And I’m getting real bored sitting out there alone.
When swooping down out of nowhere comes this feathery visitor,
A magnificent bird, I’d seen nothing exquisiter.
A parrot, like me, but of the female persuasion,
And she's real, not a figment of my imagination.
She looked straight in my eyes, and with a confident air,
Said, “You’re not a bad lookin’ fella. Whatcha doin’ in there?”
I’ll admit my initial reaction was shock,
It was the first time I’d heard any parrot just talk.
Was this a toy or a trick or a gag or a gimmick?
She was speaking her thoughts, not just being a mimic.
And that was just one of her many surprises,
She went on, as I stared in her deep, parrot eyeses.
She had once been cooped up in a cage, just like me
But now she’s with her own kind, and their home is a tree.
Birds who’d grown up domestic, and were humanly nourished,
Flew away, found each other, and now happily flourished.
“Your response says, ‘This Parrot-Girl’s trying to deceive me.
Well, look up in the sky then, if you don’t believe me.”
As I tilted my head in an upward direction,
I perceived a most colorful birdly collection.
There were twenty or more and I saw with great clarity
That this squadron of birds was unquestionably parroty.
“Wanna join us?” she asked, in a tone clearly dare-y.
“Or is living the free life too terribly scary?”
I bristled and blustered, but when I spoke all she heard
Was a caged household pet sqawk, “Hello, Pretty Bird!”
“You’re pathetic!” she said, sadly shaking her head.
“You’re a puppet for people; you’re alive, but you’re dead.
You should be with your own, it’s no problem to meet ‘em,
All you have to decide is you’re ready for freedom.”
She flew off as she called to her friends, “Wait up, fellas!”
And I said to myself, “You know what? She’s just jealous.”
However this “Freedom Thing” functions and feels,
It can never compare to dependable meals.
I performed for young Pam and her pals that same evening,
And their joy made a joke of even thinking of leavening.
I mean, look how I’m pampered and showered with kisses,
Could there be any happier setup than this is?
But that night, for the first time, I dreamt I was out,
I was free as a bird, just a-flyin’ about.
The next day I woke up in a crotchety mood
I felt trapped in my cage, and just picked at my food.
When once certainty reigned, now I wasn’t so smug,
I’d been bitten – and hard – by the ol’ “Freedom Bug.”
Now the life I once loved suddenly felt like a bore,
What I had was okay, but I hungered for more.
Came the moment when Fate played a part in the mix,
My cage doorjamb had rusted, and it hadn’t been fixed.
When you lifted it up, I perceived with a frown,
It got stuck when it dropped, maybe half the way down.
And so, one afternoon, while left sunning outdoors,
With the housekeeper occupied mopping the floors,
I squeezed out of my cage, thinking, “Is this really happening?”
Took a breath, then took off, with my wings madly flappening.
My wings were full-size, overdue for a clipping,
They’d been mindful at first, but their interest was slipping.
I guess instinct took over, I just flapped and I flew,
“I’m free!” my mind chattered. “Whoa! Now what do I do?”
How this “freedom thing” worked, I had no way of knowing,
I’d escaped, that was clear, but just where was I going?
There’s a flock out there somewhere, but if we didn’t meet,
Who would I live with, and what would I eat?
I had not flown that far at that still early stage,
The truth is, I’d been keeping one eye on my cage.
If my fear overcame me, and there was a good chance it might,
I’d fly home and abandon the whole “Freedom Flight.”
Just when my panic was starting to get out of hand,
I was spied by that renegade parrotty band.
In a blink, I’m bombarded with congratulations,
Everybody seemed thrilled by my e-mancipation.
Met the gang and I noticed that they’d somehow held onto
The personas of the folks that they used to belong to.
Meet a brash, argumentative parrot named Ernie
And you know right away he’d escaped an attorney.
Another - a nerd with a far-away stare -
Ran away from a would-be dot.com billionaire.
And the vain one who gossiped and never stopped primping
Fled a TV show starlet whose ratings were slimping.
But no matter, each Polly or Petey or Gus
Whatever their backgrounds, they’d evolved into “Us.”
A band who had bonded for simple survival
And look who’s become their most recent arrival!”
Turn the page, if you will, it’s a coupla weeks later,
After a rather rough start, I’m doing quite a bit bater.
Every day, I find ways to do more for myself,
And I’ve learned to dodge hawks, which is good for my health.
I was tutored on which things to eat and avoid,
If I ate the wrong ones, I’d wind up a dead boid.
Every trick of the trade, they were willing to share it,
As I slowly evolved from a pet to a parrot.
Then one day, eating breakfast, ‘bout a quarter past dawn,
At a time when our Leader was unfortunately gone,
I was able, through guile, to completely outfox
A ferocious attack by some us-eating hawks.
An escape plan was devised where we’d be safe and sounded
But I flew the wrong way and was suddenly surrounded.
I went a little bit nuts and did something outrageous.
To me, it was desperate, but they called it courageous.
Suddenly, I’m a hero, with no ifs ands or buts,
When before, I’d been viewed as the hopelessest klutz.
When the Leader was told how I’d sent those hawks packing,
He responded, “Good job”, though some passion seemed lacking.
I’d steered clear of the parrot who got all of this started
When she stopped by my cage and left me flutter-hearted.
Though they warned me against it, there would be no deterral,
Hey, so what if that bird was the Leader Guy’s girral!
To make a long story short (though it may be late),
My attentions produced an inevitable fate.
It was me and the leader in a parrot-ringed circle,
I was willing to fight, but this guy looked berserkal.
I was bound and determined he’d get no punches past me,
But he was crazed, he could fight, and he simply outclassed me.
And if it weren’t bad enough that he’d just cleaned my clock,
He announced, loud and clear, “This guy’s out of the flock!”
Though she tried to defend me, he would not hear a word,
I was dropped from the team; I was cut from the herd.
And so, battered and bruised and quite seriously bent,
A defeated young bird into exile was sent.
Had I grown a swelled head as I’d become more adept,
Had he over-reacted, or had I over-stepped?
My deep soul-searching lasted little more than a beat,
When a hawk streaked my way and I thought, “I’m dead meat!”
Though all hawks are surly, this one seemed even surlier,
Like he knew I’m the one who’d embarrassed him earlier.
Since there’s no way I could take this pissed predator on,
When he arrived where I was, I was already gone.
I flew and I flapped, and I flapped and I flew,
The guy wanted to kill me, what else could I do?
As I felt him get closer, his hawk breath on my neck,
I looked down and I saw a familiar back deck.
It felt oddly assuring: “Hey! I know where I am!
And look! Standing outside, could that be little Pam?”
Never once giving up, she’s still scanning the skies,
With hope in her heart and wet tears in her eyes.
She saw me and hardly a blink did I linger,
I dropped down like a shot to her extended finger.
She retreated inside, closed the door, turned the lock,
And that’s how I didn’t get killed by a hawk.
“Look who’s back!” she exclaimed, and her Mom couldn’t believe it,
I was lavished with love, and was glad to receive it.
“What’s the fuss!” asked the Dad, then he practically choked.
“It’s a miracle!" he cried, “I was certain you’d croaked!”
Back again in my cage, watered, fed and protected,
I was safely returned to the life I’d rejected.
Relaxed and relieved, petted, pampered and lazy,
And I’d given this up. What the heck, was I crazy?
Safely back where I’d started and, without placing blame,
I was nagged by the sense that it wasn’t the same.
I won’t say that it’s bad, ‘cause it certainly isn’t,
But for the first time I’m thinking, “This cage is a prison!”
All this “parroting” stuff had become quite absurd
I mean, how many times can you say, “Pretty Bird!”
On the night Pam insisted I repeat, “Hey, you’re cute!”,
I squawked “AWK!”, bit her hand, and fell totally mute.
I’m delivered to doctors who pound on my chest,
A renowned parrot psychologist pronounced, “He’s depressed!”
Back at home, they all struggle to get me to talk,
But they eventually give up on a bird who goes, “AWK!”
Then one day, on the porch, all alone, down and dreamy,
An old friend from the flock flew to my place to see me.
Seems the Leader’d fought off several hawks in the air,
And now he’s out of commission, in Intensive Care.
No one knew what to do with their Boss in a coma,
Apprehension became the prevailing aroma.
An idea – from the girl – if he wasn’t mistaken,
Was to send for the bird who had once saved their bacon.
It surprised me how quickly my mind was decided,
Hey, my guys needed help and thought I could provide it.
No time for discussion, not a word need be spoken,
It was off to the rescue, (my cage door was still broken.)
“Oh, Mom, why did he go?” whimpered Pam with a moan.
“Pam, dear, parrots, like people, yearn to be with their own.
Who can question God’s will, it’s just simply His Way.”
To which Pam replied, “Please, Mom, not one more cliché!”
As I flew into view, I could sense the excitement,
My arrival was met with delirious delightment.
Was it trust that elicited their unbound admiration?
Or had they just turned to me out of sheer desperation?
I was sure there was little about war I could teach them,
But I called them to arms, and attempted to reach them.
I reminded the flock we were birds of a feather,
And we’d come out on top, if we’d just stick together.
I could tell you our trick, but it’s best if I hid it,
Some smart hawk flock might read this, then they’d know how we did it.
I’ll just say that our enemy’s never been sorrier
Than the day that Yours Truly became truly a warrior.
(All right, I will tell you – it’s unlikely you’re shocked,
Though it did do the trick on that us-eating flock.
The eagle’s the hawk’s enemy; it is hawk meat they like,
When we “parroted” eagle calls, all the hawks took a hike.)
That night, there was feasting and dancing and song,
Everyone – even me – felt they really belonged.
But the highest of highs of the many I had
Was when the Girl-Bird passed by and admitted, “Not bad.”
Turn the page once again, I’m a natural breeder,
Not to mention a highly effective co-leader.
See, the Girl-Bird said, “Yes”, but with one crucial condition,
That she’d join me up front, not in second position.
Talk of runaway parrots, now you know all about ‘em,
Someone tells you they’ve seen ‘em, you can no longer doubt ‘em.
As for birds who don’t leave, well, that’s hardly a crime,
They’ll enjoy where they are, or they’ll leave when it’s time.
We have now reached the end of this rhyming proposal
If you have any questions, I am at your disposal.
Well, not me, but my scribe Earl, who is up for a meeting,
Look for me in the sky; oh, and thank you for reading.