The Starlings

March 6, 2012

After finishing another book, I slip on my canvas shoes and go for a run around our little track.  60 degrees and sunny.  Unseasonably warm for early March.  Through the steady rhythm of my feet and the susurrating air against my ears, I’m transported away from the confines of this oval track covered in crushed stone and into the fluid and free realm of thought and imagination.

After my run and still dreamy, I stretch out on a concrete pad near the outdoor weight area.  About 100 starlings have built their nests in the eaves under the shed-style roof that covers the weight pile.  When I’m not looking, I can hear their twittering activity but, when I turn to take a look, they are all sitting on the roof motionless and silent.

  I’ll turn away, listen for commotion, look up and they’re all just sitting there.  So, I’m forced to feign indifference like a cat and look away while struggling to catch them through the straining corner of my eye.  .

We’ll play this game until a group of inmates comes out to lift and the clangs and grunts drown out the twittering rushes of wings and the scritch of tiny black talons on aluminum.


April 9, 2012  Unraveling the Bird

Today, by the weight pile, a prisoner found a bird entangled in strands of plastic that it had been using to build a nest.  A copse of inmates formed around it as struggled  against its bindings.  Finally, an inmate reached down to lift up the tiny bird – surprised at how light it was even though he had fully expected it to be.   With one scarred and knobby hand he cradled the shuddering bird, while the other picked away at the frayed material.  Patiently and gently unraveling the knots.

As I slow from my run and approach the group, the huddle suddenly breaks and a pair of cupped hands rises up towards the sky.

The fluttering of wings, a brush of air and the bird rises up on our upturned gazes then darts away and, for just one fleeting moment, we are all flying away with it.

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