The Birds Left Us By Marissa Michel

The Birds Left Us

The birds left us in the hours when shadows dance
a smooth and rhythmic waltz over our naked streets and cracked sidewalks

In our waking moments the first thing we notice is the silence
emptiness hanging dry in the air like clothes-line laundry

Exhaustion imprinted on our bones, sleep still hovering above our eyes
our bodies sway like dandelions in the infant morning

Yesterday the children carried the wind on their backs and
Drank sunlight under the Ceiba trees, left footprints in the coffee-coloured soil

Chaos follows the birth of the new day
it ignites in our hearts and spreads like wildfire

The sweet memory of guava rests on my lips
which now ask my ancestors for answers, guidance, forgiveness

My grandmother clenches her bony hands around the bible
palms wrinkled and calloused, a testament to aging

She devours holy words with the hunger of a starved animal
spits out psalms like papaya seeds

We press our hands, delicate as paper cranes to our temples
our heads bowed beneath the weight of fear or hope

The sediment forces hollow valleys into our knees and pushes train track lines into our legs
I wonder where the birds have gone

I thought the world would end in darkness
the searing sun’s rays leave no escape from the light

Night returns and falls upon us like a crashing wave, ushering in a mysterious tide
What has the moon seen? The all-knowing, her silver glow a vanishing ghost

The beat of my heart is rhythmic, da-dum da-dum da-dum
The start to an unfinished symphony

Escaping from my throat, a warbled cry, too ugly to be song
too bold to be the humble notes of mourning

I feel a brush against the cage of my ribs
a flapping, a forceful push

Something like feathers
something like wings

By Marissa Michel


Marissa Michel is a second generation American of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage. She served as the 2020 Prince George’s County Youth Poet Laureate. In 2020 she received multiple national gold medals for poetry in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, and an American Voice nomination. She was also the recipient of the 2020 Diaz-Mattison Poetry Prize. Her newest works can be found in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Online Gallery, Love Letters To the Mothers and Fathers of the African Diaspora, and the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival. More information about her can be found on

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