Boris the Cockatoo

Boris the Cockatoo

By Barbara Daniels


I whistle when I drive my car—”Hava

Nagila,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,”

songs my friend Jackie’s cockatoo calms to,

bobs his head as I bob mine and reaches

for me with his clawed foot. It’s 18 years

since I carried tampons. I keep a photo

of myself without eyebrows. Thin, I was very

thin. I lifted my soft red hat to show off

my baldness. My inner organs slumped

together where tumors large as grapefruits

crowded me. Of course Lazarus loved death.

It was dark there. Cool. He didn’t have to

buy clothes or plan what to eat. There was

no weather. No boat to mend. No sisters

who would never marry. He held a round

piece of felt he made into hats: a monkey’s

jingling cap, doctor’s homburg, black hat

of a rich man oiled and shining. Shake

the felt! Presto, a hat covers his closed

and dreaming eyes. So far I’ve hit and

killed a meadowlark and a pheasant, both

in refuges they might have thought safe.

I ran over a basketball while its owner stood

stricken at the side of the street. I’m a blaring

calliope strapped to the back of a gilded truck,

whistling till my mouth hurts. When I see Boris

at Jackie’s house, I look straight into him—

unblinking eye, curved beak, offered claw.


Barbara Daniels’s Rose Fever was published by WordTech Press and her chapbooks Moon Kitchen, Black Sails and Quinn & Marie by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. She received three Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and earned an MFA in poetry at Vermont College.