The Bird Lady of Hanoi

I walk past this woman's house every morning. I saw the rice on the sidewalk & figured someone was leaving it out for the sparrows, but I didn't know it was such a longstanding practice. The Vietnamese are great bird-lovers, but they have a very long tradition of expressing that love by capturing birds & keeping them in cages. It's a hobby, I'm told, that old men especially go in for, but I've seen younger men tending their birds too. And they do tend them, keeping the cages spotless, providing shade, misting them with water in the heat of the day. The only cruelty is the caging itself.

Bird cages with flags


Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.