Why the caged bird sings

If I had no choice, I mean, really had no viable, reasonable, plausible choice, would I still hate my job so much? Does it make a difference whether I have a choice, or not? I suppose, if I did have options, I would take them, and would stop talking about this, um, current unpleasantness.

Easy options I have none. There’s always the drop-out option: just not go to the office anymore (probably be more elegant if I contacted HR first; there might be some financially rewarding aspects after all this time, like a retirement package). But, going from a steady paycheck to holding a cardboard sign on a street corner is not an option that is being forced on me. And, frankly, I’ve grown accustomed to going to sleep in my own bed every night with a full belly. In other words, it would most definitely not be easy to give up my middle-income lifestyle.

Find another job. Well, I just read that the United States has more people out of work, who want to work (91 million), than there are people in the country of Germany (82 million). The number of people in Germany is irrelevant to my situation, but the numbers are daunting for some reason. I have a job now, and “another job” might be possible, but there is no way I could begin again at the salary I have managed to acquire (notice I did not say “earn”) after all these years. Again, a severe change in life-style. Even if I could find one without having to relocate.

Find something else in the same company? Not when this company is laying off. Not when the only option that exists for someone with my background is to go back out into field service. I spent over 17 years as a field representative, and just can’t do that anymore (my very long list of reasons start with an aging mother – I was overseas when my father died, I won’t do that to her, again). So, yeah, I could take a cut in pay, go through the unbelievable hassles of living and working in other countries (I stopped counting at 24), and not see people I care about except for maybe one week out of the year. I could do that, but I have chosen not to. Which is precisely why I am in this “call center”: this position is the only alternative I could find, and stay in the same company (it isn’t a matter of seniority, it is a matter of the accumulation of benefits).

I would never equate myself with Paul Dunbar or Maya Angelou, but I can understand what they are talking about when they wrote about the caged bird singing. The feeling, deep down inside; that knowledge that pounds against my skull, that there is something better, something worthwhile, something of value.

Maya Angelou (http://allpoetry.com/poem/8511445-I-Know-Why-The-Caged-Bird-Sings-by-Maya-Angelou)
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The title and inspiration for this poem came from a line in Paul Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy” http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/11717-Paul-Laurence-Dunbar-Sympathy .
It was also the title of the first volume of Dr. Angelou’s autobiography published in 1969.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (http://allpoetry.com/poem/8463189-Sympathy-by-Paul-Laurence-Dunbar)
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!
Author Notes
The above poem was published in Lyrics of the Hearthside by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1899.

    • karirogersmiller
    • January 12th, 2014

    IT is out there Pete…you just haven’t found IT yet. Here I am giving advice that I, myself have not be able to find
    Perhaps IT is someplace I am not looking?…or perhaps IT is not for me….I don’t know, nor am I sure about much these days.;)

    The only thing I am sure of is a sad thing….tho I miss my peers, (some of them) … I am finding that I don’t miss the rat race anymore. It is a relief to find that someone moved my cheese and I am no longer stuck in the maze! My salary has dropped considerably, tis true….but I am finding that I really don’t need all that I thought I did…. when my cup APPEARED to runneth over. IT is all in how you perceive IT.

    Keep Singing….who knows who will hear your beautiful song and rescue you!

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