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Alan Kaufman / Poem

I Know How It Feels

My parakeet is trying to kill himself
He pops his head through the rungs of his ladder
and tries to twist off his head
Then he climbs to the top of the cage
hangs upside down, and lets go
He pops up, weaves on his feet, dazed
then inserts his head again in the ladder
like a soda bottle cap
and tries to flip off his head
Then he climbs to the roof of the cage
and hangs dutifully upside down
and falls and crashes
Then he climbs to his feet
and weaves around
as I watch all this from the sofa
if it's the thought of spending the rest
of his life with me in this little room
in the Lower Haight that is driving him
to such desperate lengths
Jeezuz, it could be, it could be ...
I know how it feels to wake up
in this room's sad furnishings
and realize that there's little more to do
today than dress, eat
and stare at the wall without a hope
of getting out of this shit somehow
I mean, writing poetry on welfare
is a lousy occupation
And all you can write about
in the end is about writing
poetry on welfare

Sometimes it occurs to me that
as a favor to us both
I simply should reach in and snap his neck
I'm sure he would be grateful
It's so hard to kill yourself when you're a bird
Your wings are for flight, not suicide

It is sometimes necessary to act with
unforgivable cruelty
as the only way free of the illusion
that you are free
If I killed my bird, I would know
for once and all what
a complete asshole I am
and what a relief that would be!
I could then head out
the door, unafraid to make the kind
of mistakes that make us laugh
The brand of mistake that gives us light in the dark
Such mistakes as ease our pain
through the long