Little Birds

— Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes

They call them ‘paraquitos’
remniscient of little birds,
parakeets, like the ones
your neighbor’s abuelita
might keep hanging in a cage
near a window
and cover with a towel at night
for hushing.

The yield of paramilitaries
summoning women to the
unfathomable fathomable,
feeding a bullet
to husbands or fathers who clutch,
slitting the throats of girls who report
what was done to them and by whom, these
little children, little paramilitary birds, consequences
of rape in the intervals of dirty war.

Some left wingless to sleep, swallowed by the canyons,
to die of hunger or chill on hillsides,
by mothers who do not want them, cannot afford them
are afraid they are damned by the devil that forced its way
into their bodies, impaling their bloom
in broad daylight and terror,
some nicked from their nests, stolen in the seize of threat;
some with their mothers remain, spurned by
their communities who do not see their existence
as anything but contamination, social stain, ongoing threat of
harrowing days to come,
              or the tarnished agony of madness and memory,
                                          of un-nameable things done,
                                                        which must, however, be named.
(Who will otherwise tell their story
when they are silenced in the throat or heart?)

Birthed out of the vile, burnt in execrable flame
With barely a feather to wing their way, charcoal pariahs,
the wailing of torment a prefatory lullaby greeting
to this life
in the throes of nightmare
on the edge of a Cauca mountainside,
furnished with dismemberment
and the forced traversal of taboos.

These birds, little birds
Fluttering in the cage of combat,
near windows of unbreakable ache for
home and the tenderness
of milk and flowers,
little birds,
singing their own names in the key of lost,
fluttering, fluttering,
covered at night, interminable night,
with a fist and a gun,
for hushing.

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