Backyard Birds Inspire After Murder Hits Home

  • Artist Vanessa German. Photo: Brian Cohen

May 23, 2014

Even the most common birds can provide solace.  After another of a string of murders in artist and anti-violence activist Vanessa German's neighborhood—this one directly outside a house where she works with childrenshe wrote a poetic prayer inspired by the idea that "if God watches over the little birds, then he watches you, too."

German's prayer in response to 38-year-old Jeffrey Jackson's killing features mention of a starling. Though German wasn't sure what a starling was when she wrote the words, she seemed to have an artist's intuition about the bird.

"I see lots of little birds that I think are starlings or sparrows and I see them around in front of the house," German said. "I know that so many people have hard times.  And they might think that nobody is looking out for them or that they've been forgotten, or that people are only looking at them for them mistakes. But I see these little birds flying around.  And I think about how they say that if God watches the little birds, then he watches you, too."

When shown a photo of a starling, she said, "That's it. It's beautiful."

The European starling prevalent in our area is mainly a glossy black, sometimes with white spots and irridescent blue and green feathers.  They can be considered an aggressive and boisterous bird, although when viewed close up, they're very attractive and the undulations of huge flocks is magnificent.

German's poem, and detail of a sculpture she created earlier that explores grief, appear below. 

i am praying for you in the soft room of my heart where the beat gets its rhythm where the pulse gets its marching orders i am seeing and beseeching on your behalf i have laid out the rug and cleaned the table i go to the wall for you my palms are up my song is up my soul is two gold hands and they are up up up up for you we have woven a new cloth my love no matter of ill or sour shall make its way into your grin marrow or dancing shoes the naysayers have nothing to say the mean spirited are busy watching the afternoon clouds gather anticipating their own storm. but you. my love. you are. for. in. about. with. steeped. toe to cheek in the suite sweet prayer song so soulful it is the very sound of your own voice rescuing a sea of thank you's from the garbage pail. i am so grateful that you are here and alive and tho the day weighs molasses like in your marrow even the laughing children on the block are singing your praises. starling. darling. no thing will keep you from the miracle of your own ferociousness. from the miracle and might of your lion-like intentions. love rages and rages on and on