The Parrot’s Soliloquy

Matthew Sweeney

Birds fly over any border 
without being checked, 
and do without passports. 
We have no photographs  
to mark us by, and not even  
the hawks are border police  
to stop us and send us back.  
I speak for all feathered 
folk on this matter, watching 
you people mass in stations 
or slip through razor wire 
or suffocate in airless trucks 
or drown in the still sea. 
I want to tell you about how 
the crows and gulls gather 
together in yards, or share 
electricity cables, or fences. 
I want you to imagine the 
penguins in Antarctica stood 
together in dazed harmony,  
even if one marches off alone. 
I want to bring in here swifts  
who circle the autumn sky, 
like wind, communicating 
in flat cries, swooping off 
together to Morocco, but I  
should also mention cages  
of quail and wild turtledoves 
in the Egyptian markets, or  
the ortolan prized in France. 
The French, they’d eat me! 
We would be fine if you let us 
be ourselves, but I am just a  
parrot who learned to speak.

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