by Susan Mitchell
She can cry his name from today to tomorrow.
She can Charlie him this, cracker him that, there
in the topmost he hangs like
a Christmas ornament,
a cascade of emeralds and limes.
The child is heartsick. She has taped messages
to the mailboxes, the names
he responds to, his favorite seeds.
At twilight she calls and calls.
Oh, Charlie, you went everywhere with her,
to the post office and the mall, to the women's
room at the Marriott where you perched
on the stall, good-natured, patient.
And didn't you love to take her thumb
in your golden beak
and, squeezing tenderly, shriek and shriek
as if your own gentleness
were killing you?
You were her darling, her cinnamon stick, her pedagogue.
You knew her secret names
in Persian and ancient Greek. At the beach
you had your own chair and umbrella.
Oh, pampered bird. The neighbors sympathize. But what's
love compared with wild red fruit, a big
gold moon, and an evening that smells of paradise?
If she were older, she'd join the other
sad girls for drinks, she'd lick
the salt from her tequila glass and say something wise
she'd heard said a hundred times before.
Oh, Charlie, you were her pope and popinjay, her
gaudy, her flambeau, her magnificat.
You were the postcard
each morning delivered to her room, her all-day sunset.
In the topmost fronds you squall and squawk
to the other flashy runaways,
Say paradise! No dice, no dice.
Susan Mitchell teaches in the graduate creative-writing program at Florida Atlantic University. She is the author of (1992), which won the Kingsley Tufts poetry award.
The Atlantic Monthly; April 1999; The Lost Parrot; Volume 283, No. 4; page 90.