Wednesday, May 09, 2007


"Hope Is the Thing with Feathers"

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all...
poem by Emily Dickinson

Last night, as those of us keeping vigil in a field beyond the prison stood in shivering silence, candles burning, waiting for word that the state had murdered Philip Workman, I walked alone with my dripping candle toward the edge of the field nearest to the prison. As I approached the metal fence which cordoned us off, I noticed a sound that, until we became silent, was previously inaudible or perhaps simply unnoticed. I heard the song of one lone bird. Perhaps she was confused by all the glaring lights illuminating the prison and imagined that day was dawning, I don't know. But, she just kept singing.

Her singing was almost frantic at times. I think she was a mockingbird as I noted that the patterns continued to change but her song was constant..verse after verse after verse. On and on, she sang, as if her life or someone's depended on it. I found myself praying that somehow Philip could hear her singing--the last music to fall on his ears this side of eternity.

Perhaps her song was a dirge of sorts, sung for a dying man. Perhaps it was a song of lament for us, as citizens of Tennessee, in whose name a man was put to death with clear evidence that he did not commit a capital crime. Perhaps, it was a song of hope, that thing with feathers, which will not be stilled though despair would surely try to shut it up. Maybe her song was all of these things.

I will not soon forget the song of that little bird. And though my heart aches, though my body and spirit are weary, I hear her song, and I know that this is not the end of the story...

Comments :
You can also check out some national coverage, some a bit slanted but nice to see it is getting some attention nonetheless.
I take comfort in knowing the Philip Workman found redemption and personal salvation in Christ.
The governors, judges, and other folks that we idealistically expect to be upstanding and fair - aren't. But God's nature and the grace and goodness never fail and always deliver. The things of this world fail miserably...we must find strength from the Lord. Christianity has nothing to do with vengence - but a lot to do with redemption, forgiveness and grace.
I heard that bird too along with the red moon rising.
I heard the bird, too, a number of times, and I remember thinking in my very distracted state of mind, 'Why is it singing, it's not morning, yet?' There's something to be learned from the bird anticipating the light, believing in the hope of morning.
The full text of the poem by Emily Dickinson is:

"Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the song without the
and never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard
and sore must be the storm,
that could abash the little bird
that kept so many warm.

I've heard it on the chillest land
and on the stangest sea,
yet never in eternity
it asked a crumb of me".
I recently learned that the part of the brain that governs the ability to sing is different from the part that controls the ability to speak. Therefore, often when we cannot speak, we can sing. Perhaps the bird was singing for all the silenced. For all those who speak but are not heard. For those of us who have no words for the terrible thing that was done last night. Let us never fail to listen to the song.
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