The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

Yellow Beak
By Stephen Dobyns

A man owns a green parrot with a yellow beak
that he carries on his shoulder each day to work.
He runs a pet shop and the parrot is his trademark.

Each morning the man winds his way from his bus
through the square, four or five blocks. There goes
the parrot, people say. Then at night, he comes back.

The man himself is nondescript—a little overweight,
thinning hair of no color at all. It's like the parrot owns
the man, not the reverse. Then one day the man dies.

He was old. It was bound to happen. At first people
feel mildly upset. The butcher thinks he has forgotten
a customer who owes him money. The baker thinks

he's catching a cold. Soon they get it right—the parrot
is gone. Time seems out of sorts, but sets itself straight
as people forget. Then years later the fellow who ran

the diner wakes from a dream where he saw the parrot
flying along all by itself, flapping by in the morning
and cruising back home at night. Those were the years

of the man's marriage, the start of his family, the years
when the muddle of his life began to work itself out;
and it's as if the parrot were at the root of it all, linking

the days like pearls on a string. Foolish of course, but
do you see how it might happen? We wake at night
and recall an event that seems to define a fixed period

of time, perhaps the memory of a beat-up bike we had
as a kid, or a particular chair where we sat and laughed
with friends; a house, a book, a piece of music, even

a green parrot winding its way through city streets.
And do you see that bubble of air balanced at the tip
of its yellow beak? That's the time in which we lived.


We woke to perhaps a quarter inch of snow and a winter storm watch, so we spent the day warily eyeing the weather and didn't venture too far from home. We did stock up on milk and cereal just in case, and we went to the pet store to get cat litter -- that really could not be postponed, especially if the county trash pickup happens on schedule Monday morning. We also got the cats a new scratching post/cat tree/place to attempt to leap onto higher furniture; I would have taken photos, but they are currently still checking it out and leaping down whenever anyone pays too much attention to them on it.

Evening was quiet -- stew for dinner, kids finishing homework and playing various video and computer games (Adam explained to me how to get onto Rockhopper's ship in Club Penguin and get a free treasure map, hee), and I had big piles of laundry to fold, which naturally called for the Hercules Celtic episodes. (Yes, I know those are terrible portrayals of Morrigan and Cernunnos; I don't take any of the mythology on these shows as remotely accurate or connected to anything theologically, they're equal opportunity offenders.) I will likely have my children home at least part of Monday, so let's hope it's good sledding snow!

These ruins in the woods near Great Falls, Virginia...

...are all that is left of the Company House built by the Patowmack Company in the late 1790s for the Patowmack Canal superintendent and his family.

Nothing but ruins remain of Matildaville now; the canal was abandoned in 1830, and the Virginia legislature took the town off its books in 1839.

The town had a proud history, founded by Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, father of Robert E. Lee, who leased nearly 500 acres of land along the Potomac River and named the company town after his recently deceased wife.

The ditches through which the canal flowed and the brick walls of the locks are still visible paralleling the Potomac River.

This man and his dog are technically breaking the law, since visitors are supposed to remain on established trails for the safety of the ruins as well as themselves.

Happy March, by the way!

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