This poem was written for a Creative Writing assignment in which students took the form of a certain poem and add their own content. Borrowing from the form of the poem “Red Sugar” by Jan Beatty, Friesen added her own thoughts and stories.
with thanks to Jan Beatty
When I was young, I was a blackbird
with just stretched red-spotted wings,
and I flew under the shadow of my mother.
That was my life. I didn’t know until I was
thirteen that we carry others alongside us.
Not just the helpless, but those
that speak to us in ethereal languages
of melody and warbling. When I was
waiting, there came a cancer in my mother,
empty. I didn’t know it, but I knew
it was the wrong kind of change/so I flew.
With my inside body I see the pain,
the whites and the irises, it looks
like sickness and it’s the wings inside me
that are flying, my red winged body
that shows me the brutal road to freedom,
the one good story, the one song
I know is mine. I heard it once
when I was dancing, something
made me turn my head, made me
swivel to look at a woman across
the room, wasn’t even my side,
but the red wings said, go. When I
saw her up close, I knew she was
true. I can’t explain this – I only met
her once. I said, Do you know
you are Mother Earth? Her face
was full, she said, Oh? – in that wise way.
Maybe her red wings told her to –
but before she left, she looked into my eyes,
said, It’s not very easy, not at all,
but I tried. Two inches away from her
very pregnant belly, I said, okay, and both
our inside bodies knew it was real.
Some people call it intuition –
the way you glimpse at what you know,
then forget it – later it rises like a flock
of another species, feathered and insistent.
It’s the wanting that drives us and
halts us, the not asking/just knowing/
the blunt life/of the real
wind and the water flow/it’s mortal/
song-singing/the most liquid part of us/
spilling/spreading/the flighty red honesty
of stories and lore/changing/moving
at the same time/slippery/red
containing what’s true/it’s the sweet,
resting in the song.