• Jørn Earl Otte

"Cardinals" -- Poem #4 National Poetry Month


You are allowed to fight back.

You are allowed to not let the drunken hatred of personal disappointment

be claimed as a legitimate reason for you to be beaten.

You are allowed to not be bruised.

You are allowed to not bleed.

You are allowed to feel kindness and hope and safety.

When you walk around the outside

of your childhood home, and see the bright red cardinals making a nest

in the tree where your playhouse used to be,

you are perfectly right to accept it as a sign.

You are witness to a reclaiming.

The putrid whiskey-tainted breath of the past no longer has control of your mind.

The bruises and cuts on your arms and legs,

the twinge of muscle memory in your most private places,

the burning of fear, the dark night and broken promises,

they are like the dead leaves that the cardinal now lays in his nest.

Build your new home, and let your scars be the walls, the bruises the ceiling,

the blood the life that is lived inside.

Let your pain be the windows and never the doors.

Look out your windows and see the cardinals hunt for worms for their young.

Let your body breathe deeply as you watch their red wings spread,

their small legs crouch,

their soft bodies soar.

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