“The Cage Is Open” by Margaret Chula
and Billy and Cooey are flying around the upstairs room
in our Kyoto house—parakeets entrusted to us
by an English couple leaving Japan.
The birds are lovers and we awaken to their crooning
in the small tatami room. Lovers, too, we lie beneath
layers of futon, snow dusting the roof tiles.
Parakeets are birds meant for sunshine
and palm trees where all day they dart in and out
of shadows, like lineated jewels.
Japanese would have nightingales, hototogisu.
Their song from Hokkaido forests is heartbreaking,
like the trill of a flute in a Noh play
when the ghost of a lover appears,
white and gauzy, face hidden
behind kimono sleeves.
On this morning of sunshine, Billy and Cooey
swoop and flutter, and land on my cherry wood vanity
with mirrors that fold in and out—
and then there are four parakeets, a choir,
perched alongside pendants and pearls
that clatter against the mirror when they fly away.
By afternoon there is only Cooey, huddled
in the open cage, bill tucked beneath her feathers.
Her chirps sound like weeping.
Snow drifts in through the open window.
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Margaret Chula Artist Statement:
Margaret Chula is a poet, teacher, and performance artist. She has
published seven full-‐length collections of poetry including, most
recently, Just This. Daffodils at Twilight is forthcoming from Aldrich
Press. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Kyoto Journal,
Poet Lore, America’s Review, Cloudbank, Windfall, Sufi Journal, West
Marin Review, and VoiceCatcher as well as in haiku journals and
anthologies around the world. She has twice been nominated for a
Pushcart Prize. Margaret has been featured at writers’ conferences
and festivals throughout the United States, as well as in Poland,
Canada, and Japan. From 2010-‐2014, she served as Poet Laureate for
Friends of Chamber Music in Portland, Oregon and is currently
president emerita of the Tanka Society of America. Having lived and
taught in Kyoto for twelve years, she currently makes her home in
Portland, Oregon, where she hikes, gardens, and creates flower
arrangements for every room of her house.