A broken winged bird

May 20, 2015


Dr. Elizabeth Fadoju


Hold fast to dreams. For when dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.

Langston Hughes birthed these words and today, I will try to unpack them, offering an analysis, if you will. I first heard this poem at the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Meyerhoff Selection weekend. UMBC was one of the schools where I was offered a full academic scholarship and sometimes I still wonder what my life would have been like had I been under the keen and watchful eye of THE President Hrabowski. He is who taught me this poem and left the imprint of it’s possibilities on my mind. For that, I am grateful.

“Hold fast to dreams…

Hughes must have known that it is a privilege to dream. Every man sleeps, but not every man dreams, just as every bird has wings but not every bird flys. Being that it is a privilege to dream, it would only be logical to urge the reader to hold fast to dreams. One should not be careless with that which is given to so few. Dreaming, also, is a choice.

“For when dreams die…”

Wait. Dreams can die? Possibilities can die? Opportunities can die? If you have lived, and I mean really lived, then this is no surprise and my flippant question marks did not fool you. The death of a dream is rarely due to the death of the dreamer, but due to the death of the will to dream. For a true dreamer does not take back the dream when death has swallowed them. Another myth is that many dreams die when they are murdered.

I think, far more common, is that dreams die when they are left alone. When they are abandoned or forgotten, for fear they may actually come true.

The real tragedy is when someone entrusted with the privilege of the dream does not have the will or the means or the courage, yes the courage to breathe life into the dream.

“Life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly…”

I do not believe this statement is black and white, rather, one possibility. A broken winged bird that cannot fly is a maimed dream that has been left unwatered. I know of many broken winged birds that can fly. I know of many far-out dreams that dared to thrive.

Have your wings been broken? Did you assume that you could not fly as a result. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that wings do not make a bird to fly, just like everything that flies does not have wings. Yes, perhaps the flapping of the wings propel the bird upwards but oftentimes the height is maintained with the bird’s tail…

Consider this. Your broken wings are not a death sentence for your dream. Whatever has maimed you, cannot maim your dream. Your dream flies by its very essence. The broken winged bird, is you.

So what are you going to do about it?