Poem Review: Flits of Freedom

Ashok Subramanian
11 min readMar 23, 2021


Summer of 2021 is here — there is no spring in the tropics. But the heat is hardly making news. A fresh wave of COVID19 virus is gripping many nations, including India.

COVID19 has restricted free flow of humans across cities, states and nations. Travel is freedom and freedom is what humans cherish.

But as the month of March unraveled, many of my family members and I have fallen to the virus. The mandatory 14 day quarantine has began. Already familiar with the lock-ins during the lockdowns, we entered into the isolation stage.

Fatigue and fever took over the first week. The second week is a slow recovery. Mind is scattered but I am not to keen to pick up the pieces. I do the must-be-done — some video conference calls & some poetry reading-writing.

‘The virus entered my ribcage

And my nest became my cage’.

‘The virus entered my ribcage, And my nest became my cage’.

I wonder how life has changed in a year. Last year, we were looking at closing out the financial year, and the world crashed all around us. People limped their way towards the new year to chase their livelihoods, but the second wave reminds us that freedom comes at a cost.

As I recuperate at my home, the freedom I yearn for led me to the search for the poems. Freedom is never absolute. Humans are social animals, and society is a bond. My exploration of freedom is contextual but open minded. I stare at the sky and the tall trees, and look for their limitlessness. I look at the birds that fly and rest on them, and look for their liberty. But even more, I look for liberation in poetic verses.

Poet Donovan Baldwin’s ‘Cardinal’, and Poet Sourabha Rao’s ‘Liberation’ brings much joy as we explore freedom through a kaleidoscope. Freedom is sometimes a fleeting thought or a flicker of vision. A world that is out there brings the feeling of freedom within.

‘Cardinal’ brings out the vision of freedom and consumption of the feeling within. It provides a fleeting glimpse of cardinal, a red bird, against the still, slow changing dawn landscape, like a ripple in a still pond. That is the glimpse of freedom.

‘Liberation’ cleaves the moment at which a bud opens and how time escapes from darkness to light. This is a short but deep poem, bringing in that little flitting movement of freedom in that moment of transience.

Most of us would have seen these flits of freedom happen in front of our eyes, but these are trapped in the verses of these two magnificent poems. Please join me in enjoying the two freeze-frame moments.

Poem 1: Cardinal

A cardinal flew across my path…Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Walking in the park at dawn
A flitting bird did see.
A cardinal flew across my path
As red as red can be.

Flickering flame in dawn’s soft light
Set the day ablaze for me.
Trapped within my own gray cage
I was happy he was free.

Commentary on Poem 1:

Donovan is a natural rhymer. His world is a combination of simple events and feelings, yet filled with subtlety. When he sees the most-loved-red-bird of the continent, the cardinal, he feels inspired and yet happy. Why?

Let us look at cardinal, the bird. I quote the National Geographic here. It says ‘The northern cardinal is so well loved that it has been named the official bird of no fewer than seven U.S. states. Bright red cardinals are easily identified by even casual bird watchers, and are often seen frequenting backyards and bird feeders. Cardinals are active songbirds and sing a variety of different melodies.’

The setting of the poem is when the sun breaks out in the eastern sky. A blushing orange dawn skyscape opens. The poet, who loves his coffee and ( I have the privilege of following Donovan’s posts on coffee and walks), ambles along in a park. He sees a ‘flitting’ bird. Cardinals are never known to be still, they always hop, flutter and fly.

Seeing them ( reminds of another poem I reviewed last year, called the ‘Wren’), one may actually feel the Schrodinger’s effect. A ‘flitting’ glimpse -here and there.

The poet sees the Cardinal flying across his path. His eyes catch the Cardinal’s appearance -‘as red as red can be’. It is red in its most glorious form - deep, unabashed red. Can red be redder? No, it is at its best on the Cardinal.

Mornings walks are about opening our minds to a new day ahead — a combination of fresh air and discovery. Putting myself in the poet’s shoes, I try to watch this gorgeous sight of seeing a day being born, the stillness of the morning air, and this — this flitting red event — a hopping and fluttering Cardinal — is a mark of life, symbolizing the soul of the earth. Why do I feel this?

Flickering flame in dawn’s soft light
Set the day ablaze for me.

The birth of the dawn, young and fragile, with its ‘soft light’, a mellowed event, is changed by the red fluttering bird. Suddenly, there is that rush of purpose and adrenalin — the Cardinal ‘sets the day ablaze’ for the poet.

I did not miss the transition of the poet from an ‘observer’ to an ‘inspired’, in that flitting moment. The world needs inspirations and this flitting moment of the glimpse of the red-bird is no less.

The poet is not done yet. Wait for the last lines.

Trapped within my own gray cage
I was happy he was free.

The poet ruminates about his life — he is now old, and trapped in his ‘gray cage’, an indication of his ageing body, but also a life that has been spent in bonds of his country, society and family, that he has tried to unshackle through his verses.

Notwithstanding his own situation, he is happy to see that the ‘cardinal’ is free. Only an emancipated soul can appreciate freedom, and that too, the freedom of others — the freedom that nature provides.

Nature also has bonds, but those are symbiotic. As an observer, as an inspired, as a trapped soul yet appreciating, the poet has brought forth this symbiotic relationship between freedom and nature, in a simple yet subtle expression of his happiness.

The poem also reflects the harmony of how a human can fit into nature — a breaking dawn and a flitting little red bird. Just be there and take it all in. And may be, if one can, like the poet, be inspired, enjoy the moment and be happy.

I wonder why the poet is feeling that he is trapped in his own gray cage. I almost missed this in the joy of visualizing the red bird. The words carry lot of weight, the weight of regret.

Could the poet have lived a free life? What shackled him? Why has he not broken out? Or does he talk about the larger human society — sunk in a pile of chained bodies and souls, unable to unleash their wanton desires and wanderlust? The questions remain.

The poet seems to be stuck in this shackled world, yet happy to see the Cardinal free. A point to ponder for me and the reader.

Poem 2: Liberation

When the bud opened her eyes … Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

When the bud opened her eyes
the time trapped in her
spilled from darkness to light

Commentary on Poem 2:

Nature has its miraculous ways of showing how freedom is symbiotic. Freedom is an action that is kinetic, driven by movements.

“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”
Rosa Luxemburg

The movement of the breeze, the rustling of leaves, the crashing of waves, the rising and setting of sun and moon, the flutter of butterflies and the birds, all capture freedom in its profound state — movement. This transition also leads to transformation.

The poet captures the magic of movement or transition as a statement of freedom and a message of liberation.

When the bud opened her eyes

A bud is a flower in its formative stage with its small petals folded. The growth of the flower happens inside the closed petals. Imagine this like a mother’s womb. Inside the womb is a dark universe, where a life is formed and grows.

The inside of the bud is where the flower’s ingredients, including the filament and anther, which contains pollen — the seed for future species, develop to form the core of the flower. This happens away from the sunlight.

The beauty of life is both within, when it is formed in the deep, dark universe of its own, and without, when it explodes into the universe as the young one of the species. This transition is what the poet captures in those words ‘ when the bud opened her eyes’.

This is the birthing process of the flower. The first part, where the prenatal growth that happens inside is analogical to the bud closing its eyes, captures the whole new world within. So when it ‘opens its eyes’, the world underneath explodes, like the Bing Bang explosion of the universe.

the time trapped in her

A bit of science here. Humans cannot still understand time before Bing Bang. We call the exact moment of Bing Bang as t=0. Similarly, the time at which the bud opens its eyes, is t=0, the birth of time in that little flower universe.

If one can understand the profundity of these words, it is enlightening to say the least. Each flower bud opening is a Big Bang event itself, in its own flower universe.

Wow. I did not realize that. Till now.

spilled from darkness to light

Science continues, but camouflaged as poetry. The light trapped inside that tiny bud now explodes and travels out, spilling new imagery. From t=0, it is the escape of light and matter with it, that makes this universe. Time itself comes into definition after the Big Bang event — the bud opening its eyes. Time hidden in the dark, in the womb of the bud, is now out with the larger universe.

If you are an observer, you can observe this little event in the gardens and forests, in the plants and trees, and everywhere around. Myriad universes explode open, letting pockets of time escape from the darkness of the floral wombs into the light of the larger universe. Why do scientists then look for answers far away? Our poet has found it very close to us.

Each Big Bang is its own act of freedom, letting time escape from darkness to light. It happens in a flitting moment during the simple unraveling of the bud’s petals.

You might not have seen this insight so far, but you might now. The verses of the poet bring to us a profound lesson in science, but more than that, the words of freedom, of liberation of the arrested moment to fly free.

Flits of Freedom:

In our lives, we are inspired by events — events that do not mean much at a passing glance, but when our minds arrest those flitting moments, they manifest into deeper meanings.

Freedom is for those who seek, and for the seeker, there is the meaning to make. A cardinal flying in the poet’s path during his morning way at dawn, or a bud opening in a garden are daily events. But when their minds seek answers from the events that they have observed, they turn into verses with profound meaning, capturing those flits of freedom.

I salute Poets Donovan Baldwin and Sourabha Rao for providing the opportunity to review these poems, and liberating me out of my caged stint, as I recuperate from COVID19.

~Ashok Subramanian

About Poet Donovan Baldwin:

From his LinkedIn Profile

Seventy-five year old U.S. Army Retiree. Coping daily with adult ADHD/ADD.

After four years in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era, I attended the University of West Florida in Pensacola, where I earned a BA in Accounting, and, subsequently, worked for a few years in budget development and analysis for various government agencies.

In 1978, I chose to re-enter the U.S. Army, where I served as a Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) in positions involved primarily with training and administration. In these positions I supervised as many as 40 people, and often provided training on various topics for both large and small groups.

In addition to having been the business manager for a community mental health facility, where I was responsible for all business aspects of operations, I also spent a few years as a federal purchasing agent, procuring goods and services for the Texas Army National Guard in accordance with applicable federal and state regulations.

For several years after retiring from the Army, I was a state-certified classroom and hands-on instructor for a major national transportation company. I also became a board certified optician, specializing in optical lab production.

I am a poet and article writer having published several poems in small literary journals and, at this moment, have over 400 articles published on various websites. I am also a past member of Mensa, but have not chosen to renew my membership for several years.

Raised in an era which did not recognize or cope with such conditions, I was finally diagnosed with ADHD/ADD at age 65. As a result of this, I was able to explain, and understand, many personal problems I had experienced throughout my years in school and at work. I now function at a much higher level due to a better understanding of my condition, and the occasional aid from medication.

Poet Saurabha Rao:

From her LinkedIn Profile:

I’m a professional writer, poet, translator and freelance columnist with literary proficiency in English and Kannada and over six passionate years in environments of excellence.

I deeply care about producing stories on nature and wildlife, social issues and art. I strive to write truthfully and creatively in an earnest attempt to create content that both educates and entertains, has impact and mobilises positive social change.

Following a rather tangential but well-timed change of interests away from information technology at Unisys, my writing journey began at Flipkart in 2014, where I penned blurbs and author biographies for books, and product descriptions for varied merchandise, including fashion accessories.

Following this, I worked with Toehold Travel and Photography as a senior writer with accomplished natural-history photographers to author creative features, web copy, social media content and more.

After a short stint with a creative agency, and working with the Centre for Wildlife Studies as media manager — heading press relations, social media strategy, web upkeep, blog articles, and more — I’ve been in the employ of Wildlife Conservation Society-India as media and outreach manager.

I have contributed editorial articles to Deccan Herald and several Kannada newspapers, currently authoring a weekly column in Vishwavani.

An unbridled poet long-listed for the Toto Awards for Poetry in Kannada and English in the past, I’ve also worked on an IFC (World Bank) project — a documentary on Indian sugarcane farmers — and have collaborated with many artists in India and across the world to publish books and comics, notably as the first person to translate cult publication, Zen Pencils, into an Indian language (Kannada).

PS: Copyright acknowledged for Poems ‘Cardinal’ and ‘Liberation’ to Donovan & Sourabha Rao respectively.



Ashok Subramanian

A poetic mind. Imagines characters, plots. Loves Philosophy, Literature and Science. Poetry-Short Stories-Novels- Poetry Reviews-Book Reviews