Yes, we've heard their sad repetitions,

the 'pieces of eight', the rote 'Pretty boys',

dropped from tired beaks like peanut shells;

birds bored far beyond the thinning bone.

Compulsive as a handwasher who never

satisfies herself against germy armies

(save her hands are gloved in blood,

and cleansed into gauntlets of agony)

the caged bird will repeat this or that,

sigh, then hear that weird word clever,

thrown at his misery like a charity coin,

a beggar at our table of meaning.


But to see them treed, hanging upside-down,

greeting wet wind like a blown umbrella,

yellow winking at sun like a wicked punch-line,

raucous joy a cascade of brassy cunning sax;

this is the true sound of this bossy bright thing.

Why quibble about what they know, or don't?

A screech floats to ground like a metal bird,

cut with tin-shears by a half-blind drunk,

so gratingly loud that ears are near-shorn.

Cockatoos mar the sky with jagged freedom,

as far from a nightingale's sweet treacle

as a sudden mouthful of shattered glass.