Art by Ellie Harold from “Birds Fly In: A Human Refuge Project”
 They are raven-like, dark-winged
 moving toward a tangled nest                 
 or like crows circling
 seeking their own kind
 against a fog-ivory sky the outline
 is interleaved with comings
          and         goings
 birds-eye cries
                               of brush-wings
     odors        from mud
                            frenzied red
 but now, as I stop and sit, the painting becomes
 light-blue sprigs nuzzling
 rough-edged gaps
 amid the white silence
 and I see
 the birds are skylarks
                                                           making merry
                                           and beyond
                                                        the framework    
                                                                         where joy flies on  

Cheryl Heineman

What is the significance of this work to you?

This poem is significant to me, because it reflects how I inject myself into works of art.  My initial take on the painting by Ellie Harold, "Birds Fly In" was depressing, with dark, scary birds emerging from the background, but later they would be transformed into birds of joy.  This poem is part of an exhibition "Birds Fly In, a Human Refuge," a look at the sorrows as well as hopes of refugees. In the exhibition, there is a place for the viewer to sit, listen to music, and contemplate the paintings. The viewer is given pen and paper to record emotions in reaction to the exhibit.

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

I wanted the form to reflect flight's movement and the change in my interpretation of the painting.

What was your process for creating this work?

I started with my first take of the painting: the poem being a reflection of my own depressive shadow, but then as I sat with the painting, I saw more and more light and realized not all dark is negative, but rather holds joy within, waiting to be released. So, the poem evolved from dark to light. 

Cheryl Heineman graduated in 2017 with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. She also has a master’s degree in Jungian Psychology and has published three collections of poetry: Just Getting Started, something to hold onto, and It’s Easy to Kiss a Stranger on a Moving Train.

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