Expressive Writing and the Self

Gold Bird Gilded Cage Prison Imprisoned Caught

I recently took an expressive writing course led by Dr. Reinekke Lengelle. It was a fascinating journey for me: as I learned about creative writing in a therapeutic context, I also had the opportunity to explore my own sense of self. At the time of the course, it had only been a few months since being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and I was still trying to come to terms with what I thought of as the new me. The course also allowed me to take an objective view of the childhood trauma I experienced through an exploration of my own healing process. I realized these two key issues (trauma and disease) were related in the way they made me feel divided. I tried to capture this in the poem below, written as one of the assignments for the course.

Night Bird: A Portrait of Self

There is this me
And—                                                                                    That me
Wings of a captive night bird
One strong, willing
The other—                                                                          Broken, limp
Gilded bars framed to protect
Spaced wide enough to peck but not escape

Keep your fingers out
There is danger in this darkness
Though I, without a voice,
Cannot greet the drooping cloak of night
With song—                                                                          I see you well

This wing
And—                                                                                     That wing
Ruined, it still provides the balance for this perch
Below may be the bottom of the cage
Or nothing, an endless darkness
Free of stars and satellites and
Deeper than your science could predict

Could I fly there?—                                                             A clockwork bird
Recast in shining metals
Bright jewels invisible in this formless well
The sounds of whirling cogs and wheels
Devoured in the vacuum

Or better yet—                                                                     A cyborg bird
Synthetic wires and nodes
Flashing lights a beacon in the black
More machine than flesh but whole again
Connected to the world beyond

No, I am not flying
This me
Or—                                                                                        That me
What was broken cannot be remade
But something new might yet emerge
With one wing folded flat—                                              Perhaps
There could be room to slide between these bars


© Jennifer Bertrand, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.