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To me, this poem is about freedom. The author is saying that you cannot achieve freedom by trying to hold on to it.
To the author, the only way you can achieve freedom, the only way you can be a bird, is through words.
To me, this is a political statement. He is saying that it is only through free speech and words that people can become free.
This is, in a way, an argument for the idea that it is through ideas and thoughts that countries can stop having repressive governments and can move instead towards freedom.
The most important literary device that the poet Patrick Lane uses in "The Bird" is an extended metaphor, sometimes referred to as a conceit. Throughout the poem, Lane compares freedom to a bird; the person that the poet speaks to is continually compared to someone who tried to capture a bird but ended up killing it.
To me, the poet seems to be addressing someone who is trying to accomplish something great by interfering with other people's freedom; perhaps he is addressing a dictator who is trying to "whip" his country to progress and success. The poet refers to this as: "You wanted / to cage a bird in your hands / and learn to fly."
The poet warns that this cannot be done. By limiting people's freedoms, they will not be able to accomplish truly great things. The poet expresses this by way of a metaphor:
You must not handle birds.
They cannot fly through your fingers.
You are not a nest
and a feather is
not made of blood and bone.
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