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An instructional manual on envying the birds

Melinda Shen '24

  1. Because lately, you’ve been feeling too grounded. Because you miss the feeling of your head in the clouds. Because you wish to be weightless, to be swept away on the breeze, and not feel the world stack itself on your back.

  2. Climb up to the highest floor. Dangle your legs through the bars of the rooftop and pretend it's no big deal the treetops are nowhere near enough to land on.

  3. Imagine the cotton in your chest comes from breathing the clouds. You know it's really from living on recycled air, from being in the same room for too long with windows stuck shut.

  4. You think you were one of them in your past life, an albatross gliding the current and barely flapping its wings. A falcon that speaks its secrets in the silence before the breaking of the sound barrier. How else would you explain this longing in your lungs, this itching beneath your skin and between your shoulder blades, this feeling that you should've been reaching for something better?

  5. Po’s raven was a telemarket scammer, promising life and one of the feathers under his wing. “I can tell your future,” he had said. “Only this and nothing more.”

  6. Instead of the raven on the windowsill, you are the vulture eating itself. You are the vulture waiting above half-sick prey that dives down with open talons while it is still alive.

  7. Your word of the day is saxicoline. It means living or growing among rocks and you think you feel moss creeping up the small of your back. You think the closeness of the ground is making you crazy.

  8. Listen: you know you can't grow your wings just by dreaming of them at night. Listen: the tremble in your fingertips is nothing more than being stretched too thin. Listen: there is too much birdsong in your head.

  9. Listen: You know you're only here because, in your past life, you didn't live. You know this poem is useless, that hands can't turn into feathers, that I'm only standing here to pretend I'm a narrator for someone else, that I’m a lying pet shop owner and the only thing I've sold is myself.

  10. Have you made it yet?

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