The Swallow and the Parakeet

Stephanie Amanda N. Sabban

© Copyright 2024 by
Stephanie Amanda N. Sabban

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash
Down a slope of a hill,

Quietly pecking amongst the soot,

Looking for your next meal.

Maya, that's your name.

You are small, helpless, and unremarkable.

These are three truths you understand; just as much as your desire for flight.

But these inherencies do not weigh on your wings,

Because for all your disadvantages,

dropped from the top of a branch,

You flew.

You are free because you are a bird,

You understand that just as well.

So here you are, brushing your feathers amidst the grass.

Picking for crumbs,

Or trinkets

All the wonders of a swallow's world that I could never understand.

The world is larger for you, a million possibilities I could never be privy to.

Your feet scratch into the loam,

A pattern you've carved since you've had toes.

Scraping, scraping, and scraping,

And then you slip.

Stumbling in this field, a surprised chirp bubbles out.

I like to imagine it as a giggle of surprise, your own affronted exclamation —

A moment of amusement, idyllic,

Peaceful amusement.

Tumbling in grass, innocent, loving and living the world —

— As perhaps, mayas do.

Twittering in the dust, music.

I know now, why they say birds sing —

— A prelude to the tragedy just below the slope.

The moment stretches on lifetimes.

It ends as quick as dust settles.

I see it in your eyes

I know you found it.

Up the slope of a hill,

Desperately scrambling away from the carrion,

Beak open in what looks like a silent, silent scream,

I know you see her

I know you see her lying there.

You are a maya, that is your name,

You are small, helpless, unremarkable —

— unloved by the world, everyone's target.

You knew this much,

This is the simplicity of the universe, you always knew

Or you thought you did.

Bitterly, you realize,

You are a maya,

And what do you know about the world?

The hill stretches into a mountain.

Pebbles you once skidded familiarly past turn into boulders that send you sliding,

And sliding,

And sliding,

You are falling forever and the mountain reminds you.

It brings you back to her.

At the foot of the mountain lays a Parakeet.

She is not moving.

She is not breathing.

She is— was— big, beloved, and colorful.

The patterns on her feathers remind you of a most colorful landscape,

Like colors and lights all melting together as you dart through the skies,

Faster than you've ever flown before

Feathers in a blur of a most beautiful, beautiful view.

A story in her skin that you can never hope to tell.

Only a maya would know, perhaps,

Another one of those huge secrets I am not small enough to know.

A Parakeet is lifeless at the foot of a mountain,

Bigger than you,

More beloved than you,

And radiant as the earth you see below your wings.

You are terrified in a way no other living creature can comprehend.

Parakeets are not common in the Outside.

You have lived in the wild — or, at least, a wild World,

For longer than you can even imagine.

You've seen a Budgie or two,

Off parroting back meaningless nonsense to the people like me who own them.

You understand, as a perciever,

That to survive in this world, you are either fast enough; or amusing enough.

Either smart enough to live or strong enough to survive.

You understand, as a perciever, what Parakeets are made for.

Smart. Amusing. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

But in a sense, you believed, at the very least —

— With the lot of them in good homes, good food, never needing to hunt or run or be afraid their whole lives, they had been…


You do not understand what it is humans think they were;

But you thought that they were at the very least


You do not know what to make of what you saw.

If even a parakeet is unlovable in this world,

Enough so that one lays dead on a nameless land

What does that mean for you?

You do not look for your next meal.

But the growing emptiness in your stomach is beginning to turn into a void.

Now, you're just looking for a way out.

The mountain looks taller with every passing moment that is not spent climbing it.

You have gone up and down this hill many times before and the only thing that's changed is—

…That's not a fair thing to say, though, is it?

Everything has changed now.

You are a humble swallow,

With feathers as dark as the dirt you step on,

With wings in a dull shade of maroon.

You are not as innocent as this world makes of you.

You have lived through a bloodshed only you can remember,

Only those of you with your feathers can.

This is different.

Maybe this is what humans call grief.

One step.

That's what I usually say

Or, that's what people who look like me do.

One step at a time. Slow and steady wins the race.

You climb.

You have wings on your back,

You could flap them around before,

Get to wherever you wanted.

You are a maya and you are one of the fastest fliers in the world.

Now, if you try, everything around you blends into the same color of the Parakeet's feathers.

It sickens you,

And your wings feel like lead on your back anyway.

So you climb.

You take one step on both feet, closer and closer.

You trip less, and less, and less.

The mess of yellows, greens, and blues around you turns clearer

You remember the mess of yellow, green, and blue feathers, muddled and roughed up by a fall.

You never knew why the Parakeet died in the first place. You are not eager to investigate.

It only matters to you that the Parakeet is dead.

I watch you make it up to the top of the hill.

I do not interfere.

I do not know if you are watching me.

I do not know if you are aware that you are being watched.

In your shoes, I would be grateful that there is a witness to my terror —

— And sick with the knowing that there is a witness to my grief.

Unknowable witness am I to you

Incomprehensible giant, features beyond your understanding

You can never know me as i will never know you

But I had seen the Parakeet's body too, rotting in the grass,

A twisted, terrified expression on its features.

Ants beginning to gather at its beak.

And I had seen you,

Quickly scrambling away and failing.

And scrambling some more, some more, some more.

I watch you. You make it. I knew you would

It is in the living's nature to endure.

I am not privy to your thoughts or your instincts.

I am a bystander watching something come face to face with their mortality.

I am a bystander watching something find a corpse.

I am a bystander,

And you are up the hill.

For a long, long moment, nothing happens.

Time passes.

Nothing moves at all.

When I blinked, you flew.

Down a slope of a hill,

Lying peacefully amidst the soot,

A rotting carcass fulfills its role in an ecosystemic scheme.

Parakeet, that was your name.

You were small, helpless, and in the end, unloved.

These are three truths you understand just as much as your wings were once meant to fly.

As your beak was once meant to pick.

As your voice was once meant to sing.

I wonder what gilded cage you lived in before inexplicably,

You were discarded here.

Meant to decay amongst the worms, you fell.

Death is freedom, you understand

Or at least, your biology does.

Look at it, obediently festering,

Submitting to the natural order —

Decay's existence as an extant of life.

So here you are, your lifeless feathers rustling amidst the grass.

Lying among crumbs and trinkets,

Hoping to be found once more. Hoping that they will take your body home.

(Wherever such a haven could be. If it exists for things like you.)

All the wonders and horrors of a bird's world that I could never understand.

The world is larger for you, a million possibilities I could never be privy to.

As of this date, 14 years old, and was born on July 8th 2009. Currently posted in Quezon City, Philippines. This poem was written on the 23rd of March in 2024, as a product of a recent outing to a theme park, where she watched a swallow find the body of a dead parakeet. The poem was originally titled Enchanted Kingdom, after the theme park's name, but eventually decided that the title would make sense if it were simpler. This is not the first work this author has written, only the first original she's publishing. She has been writing creatively, both for recreational and educational purposes, since she was (more or less) 8 years old. Outside of literary works, she is also a painter, and has sold digital commissions for different clients over the years, and once auctioned off a traditional artwork in an event hosted by a professional contact. In addition to being a writer and a multimedia artist, she enjoys musical (mostly lyrical) composition and has been professionally casted and performed live on stage in summer workshops produced by some of her region's best-selling playwrights.

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