Hope is the thing with feathers. Remember that! Visualize that! Especially during these harrowing times! Thank you, Emily Dickinson!
See how the little thing, delicate but mighty, takes wing and soars, singing its dulcet song, leaving all human misery down below.
Hope! Feathers! Got it! Sear this thought into your brain while you root around under the sofa cushions for any stray quarters or dimes that may have fallen out of people’s pockets. Your $600 unemployment checks are no more — pandemic relief, we hardly knew ye! — and now you’re without funds to spend on all the fripperies you were using that $600 for, like food and shelter.
You know what? It’s kind of nice here under the sofa cushions. It’s dark and surprisingly cool, and no one can arrest you for going to a peaceful rally or try to run you over in an unmarked police car. Nothing bad can happen to you here unless someone sits on you, but no one comes over anymore anyway.
You can just rest here under the cushions and think about hope and things with feathers. You can’t listen to or read the news, which is actually a big relief, because you keep mishearing and misreading the news, putting your own little dark spin on everything.
The other day you were reading in the newspaper about some Broadway musical available online that “navigates the entrails.” Gross! Who’d want to watch a show like that? No, no — what it said was, “captivates and enthralls.” But you didn’t watch it. You couldn’t get those entrails out of your mind.
Also, your local paper carried a story last week about expanding the “emergency center” in your town. You thought, Oh God, is there another emergency, a new emergency, an emergency they aren’t telling us about? No, it turned out, the shelter has always been there, for the usual emergencies like hurricanes and power outages, and it’s being expanded. Only instead of “spacious facility,” which is what the article said, you read, paranoiacally, “specious facility.”
Also, you heard on NPR the other day that anxiety about the pandemic is causing some children to take up “phone-sucking.” Disturbing! Disturbing but believable, because grown-ups and children alike are losing their minds with all the stress — hello, woman you read about recently who spent the past months making tiny food out of clay! — and who knows, you might start sucking on your phone any minute. But when you heard the story on the radio again later that day, what you heard, correctly this time, was “thumb-sucking.” Oh.
But that’s sad too.
Hope! Feathers! The holidays are just around the corner, with gay holiday lights festooning Main Streets everywhere, even if Main Street now looks like a post-apocalyptic ghost town; and children tucked in their beds on Christmas Eve, listening for the sound of Santa’s reindeer on the rooftop, albeit worried out of their minds that Santa will bring his COVID cooties with him down the chimney.
Of course, there’s the rest of winter to get through, but that’s only, like, a million empty hours to fill. Maybe you could dream up some COVID-appropriate get-togethers as you lie here under the sofa cushions, like larkish parties of three hosted by you in your garage with the door open for air circulation, everyone sitting around a candle wrapped in parkas and blankets. Or skating parties, with each guest skating ‘round and ‘round in his or her own solitary little circle.
Okay, the prospect of all this makes you want to die a little. Thank goodness for the thing with feathers! Hey, maybe these sofa cushions are made of feathers. Cool. Speaking of feathers, you know what you shouldn’t think about? That documentary you just watched about the poaching of rare songbirds in Europe, so that decadent foodies can pay hundreds of dollars to eat them at fancy restaurants.
Don’t think about that. Hope is the thing with feathers, just not the thing with feathers that’s been caught in a trap where its tiny feet stick to glue and it suffers a hideous death, only to then be boiled in brandy. Hope is the thing that got away from the bad people, a flying thing, gliding high in the sky!
Wait a minute. Maybe hope is just a dum-dum. Some of the things with feathers are very dumb. Like those birds that fly into your house and bang and bang into the window panes when you’ve opened every single door to let them out, or those wild turkeys where you live, so dumb they hang out in the middle of the road waiting to get hit by cars.
Is hope like that? Kind of clueless and dumb and doomed to be roadkill?
No, no! Hope! Feathers! Not dumb!
But the thing with feathers — doesn’t it fly, really, because that’s just… what it does? Isn’t it just looking for something to eat, like the rest of us?
You know what’s dumb? Metaphors. Metaphors mislead. Metaphors blow.
Oh, look! A shiny penny, here under the sofa cushions! That’s good luck, everyone knows that! Good fortune is sure to come my—
Oh, right. It’s just a penny. It doesn’t “mean” anything.
But maybe a shiny penny is a start. So cheer up! There must be a quarter in here somewhere.