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.