A few years ago, I visited a parrot sanctuary in Australia at dusk. They had a whole avenue lined with cages containing parrots, many of which had been rescued because their owners had died or didn't want them any more. What followed was a very eerie experience which inspired this poem.

At the parrot sanctuary


Our presence disturbs their sleep:
heads bob and weave,
beaks biting the wire.

Some have plucked the feathers
from their tails,
their breasts,
as if trying to find out love

Bright eyes stare out
from circles of wizened skin
to fix us,

and then the dead begin to speak:

a chorus of greetings and goodbyes
nicknames, profanities,
the ghost of a woman’s laugh.

No one can live long
with this ventriloquy,
voices thrown from the dark.

Not us,
who leave them quickly to their cages
to the silence that only comes
when we are gone.

from The Silence Living in Houses (Bloodaxe, 2005), © Esther Morgan 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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