The Glass Cage (Poem)


This year, I had one of my poems published in a book for the first time!

The poem, The Glass Cage, was inspired by my trips to a children’s mental hospital/care facility. My mom, sister and I used to volunteer there when my sister and I were in school. We used to sit and try to talk to the kids, feed them and play with them. Some of them were paralysed and a lot of them could make sounds, but could not speak, like animals. It seemed that some of them did not even realize that we were there. I met such different kinds of children and adults facing severe mental disability and realised how special and unique each one was. In the poem I describe a few of the children we met there as animals and the hospital as a cage. But on a deeper level, this fragile glass cage can also be seen as the restrictions they deal with in their own minds. And as animals on display, they feel unable to break away from these. Yet I encourage people to go into the cage, and not to shy away. I encourage you to not only go into these care facilities, but to also make an effort to truly connect, however small and insignificant the connection may seem. As human beings, isn’t our greatest calling to truly connect with and love one another?


I was sad to hear that some of their families never came to visit them, instead just put them in this special care centre and forgot about them. It can be hard to go into a place like this and to face the harsh reality that is extreme mental disability. But just because something is uncomfortable or sad, does not mean that one should not do it. As you can see in the poem, my wish is that more people would face this reality and help those affected by mental illness. I hope this poem will help spread awareness for mental disease and that these children I write about will never be forgotten. I hope you enjoy the poem and please let me know what you think!


The glass cage

Come with me to the place where few feet dare to tread

But where many forgotten souls pace up and down in dread

Tip-toe beside me through the halls as old as age

The place I call the glass cage


Enter into the place; stop to listen to the white flamingo’s song

As he taps his beak at an uneasy pace on the glass entrapment all day long

His is a stubborn song that will stop you in your tracks

He will not relent until the glass cracks


Do not fear to feed the creature that cannot make a sound

Rage races through his thoughts, though he is bound

His gaze is forever chained to the sky like Orion

No longer a hunter, yet still a lion


Sit with me and watch the old mischievous fox

Trouble follows shortly behind her dishevelled locks

In a reddened rush, she taunts the delicate fawn

Before retreating to safety, for she too is a mere pawn


Before you leave, peer up at the brightly lit skies

Dare not look away, dare not narrow your eyes

And once you have wandered off this page

Do not forget those in the glass cage


© 2017 Michelle Sky Hayward, All Rights Reserved. 

Previously published in the anthology Best New African Poets 2016 available on Amazon and Exclusive Books 


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