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Scarlet the Parrot, from Work in Progress (Chapbook of Animal Poems)
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Then there's Scarlet the Parrot. Worked as editor for a commercial publishing house on Vancouver Island. I was doing penance for the poems of mine that the University found 'incomprehensible.' I was editing books on the history of logging, the history of mining, the history of trucking, etc., in British Columbia. Scarlet (name from Scarlet in Gone With the Wind) was a Macaw parrot and, like myself, a vegetarian. We shared meals… Scarlet was partial to male authors and generally attacked females by lunging at them, biting their toes. Loyal and beautiful, she was also very possessive.


Scarlet perches on the office windowsill
shrieking, hollering, barking

Like a dog. She knocks her mottled beak
against the warehouse window

And tries to open
the metal hook and eye latch.

There are parrot droppings
on the telephone and Scarlet has eaten

Part of the plastic receiver.
The parrot slides like a red fireman

With yellow and blue feathers
up and down the cord,
    holding on

With her beak, maneuvering gracefully
    with her claws.
When I approach she calls, Hello, hello…

Walks up my trouser leg holding on
with her macaw's beak. I feed the bird

Oranges and pears, almonds
and sunflower seeds.

I swivel my head round and round
in imitation of her neck movements.

'What’s happening?' she asks,
and again, 'What’s happening?'

'Hello, cookie. Yoo-hoo…
Can you talk, can you talk?' she asks

Chewing for several minutes,
finally swallowing
    a leather button

Off my green corduroy jacket, threatening,
ready to tear my ear off,

Biting if I place my finger
in her mouth. Her tongue is black

And her beady eyes piercing like an eagle's.
She wants a response, tests my reactions.

Tenderly the parrot walks up my corduroy jacket,
sensually restraining her claws. I'm aroused.

When a dog barks, she barks too: Rrf, rrf.
Casually, a relaxed but authentic

Imitation. 'Hello, darling,' she breathes,
looking me in the eye knowing I know

If it pleases her she might bite my ear off.
'Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo, now you say something,' she says.


reprinted from Four Incarnations (Coffee House Press) and The Collected Poems (Black Moss Press), 1991, 2004, copyright (c) by Robert Sward.