There Are Birds Here

By Jamaal May b. 1982 Jamaal May

For Detroit

There are birds here,
so many birds here
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
between buildings
and buildings. No.
The birds are here
to root around for bread
the girl’s hands tear
and toss like confetti. No,
I don’t mean the bread is torn like cotton,
I said confetti, and no
not the confetti
a tank can make of a building.
I mean the confetti
a boy can’t stop smiling about
and no his smile isn’t much
like a skeleton at all. And no
his neighborhood is not like a war zone.
I am trying to say
his neighborhood
is as tattered and feathered
as anything else,
as shadow pierced by sun
and light parted
by shadow-dance as anything else,
but they won’t stop saying
how lovely the ruins,
how ruined the lovely
children must be in that birdless city.

Source: Poetry (February 2014).

 Jamaal  May

Biography

Jamaal May was born and raised in Detroit. His first book, Hum (2013), won a Beatrice Hawley Award and an American Library Association Notable Book Award and was an NAACP Image Award nominee. Hum explores machines, technology, obsolescence, and community; in an interview, May stated of his first book, “Ultimately, I’m trying to say something about dichotomy, the uneasy spaces between disparate emotions, and by extension, the . . .

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Poems by Jamaal May

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Nature, Animals, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, Class

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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