“We’ve heard you were a victim.
Stop crouching in shadows, chewing your hair.”
– “Okay, Ophelia,” Jeannine Hall Gailey
You have a copy of Jeannine Hall
Gailey’s poem propped in front
of the birdcage that sits on top
of your filing cabinets. Outside
the birdcage are many birds,
one of twisted wire, others with
feathers, gifts from friends.
Inside the cage are things
that remind you of various men:
an ocean stone from a trip
to San Francisco with your
ex-husband, an envelope
with your name written on it
by your first love, some change
a man dropped in your apartment
last month. This is in equal parts
spell and reminder, exorcism
and art installation. You ask
the universe and your listening
goddesses to help you keep
perspective where men
are concerned, and it mostly
works. On a date last week,
a man you’ve just started seeing
points out that you’re not
a damsel in distress, that you
don’t need to be rescued.
From him you have your
ticket from the American
Writers Museum and a ribbon
from the complimentary brownie
they gave you at the Palmer
House Hilton where you had
drinks. But the man you’re
really trying to gain perspective
on has left no souvenirs. So you
take the necklace you wore
the first day you met him and
that you’ve never worn since.
You slip it between the bars,
all shining and silver, a tiny
dried flower in a locket,
always remembering that what
is in the cage is never you.
Jen Finstrom is an adjunct instructor at DePaul University in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Department and is also Outreach Coordinator at DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL). She was the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine for thirteen years, and recent publications include Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, MockingHeart Review, and Red Eft Review, with work forthcoming in Thimble. Her work also appears in Silver Birch Press’s Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks.