Maybe it needs batteries, said Marguerite,
A new black box, new Adam's apple,
Or new elastic band windup spring.
No, I'd better watch my loosened tongue;
A pure prophecy should not be broadcast
Without the most stringent of safeguards.
This is not to say that a fear exists
Of expurgation or bowlderization:
My repugnant messages are tamper-proof.
It would be for best, I thought, not to start,
Best not to launch myself at my targets.
Perhaps the two of us could just converse,
Have a little chat, some tea, a biscuit,
Or swap some stories, bring out the booze,
But keep a light touch, nothing serious,
And just idle away the afternoon.
I'd regale her with tales of my exploits
Without dealing with the downfall and death
Of this town and every soul within,
Not directly at least, and not to start.
But how start? Comment on the wallpaper?
What a very lovely floral pattern,
I could say, Are those blooms camillias?
And that is wallpaper, is it not?
Or just what sort of fish floats on murk
Inside of that glass bowl over there?
Is that a submerged wreck that gashed its side?
It's like the little wooden model boats
That children build to make themselves sailors,
Or those larger ones cargo cults sculpt
To draw ashore an overdue shipment.
I'd say aloud, so, Marguerite,
From what port did that scuttled craft hail?
Talk, bird, or I'll wring your bloody neck,
Cut you up, boil you down to soup stock,
Or maybe make some parrot fried rice.
Plastic enhances all flavours, I said.
For the best results, try the microwave.
Nine minutes on defrost and five on high
Makes me into a thick, sticky puddle.
And when I'm cool, cut me in squares and serve.
Ha! You do talk! It's a start, at least.
If I'm to start, I will do it properly,
In classic manner, with an invocation.
Proceed, said Marguerite. I've grown bored.
I struck my best declamatory pose,
Cocked my head, raised my beak, cleared my throat,
Opened up passage for my quickened wit,
Coughed out my reluctant, craw-caught theme,
The tragic tale of a parrot's eye lost:
Sing oh holy muse and lend me your voice...
Now hold it right there, mister parrot.
I've heard these same words somewhere before,
Or similar words, words to that effect.
I think, parrot, she said, you plagiarize.
I am, as you can clearly see, a parrot,
An extraordinary electric parrot
Whom electronic wizardry has taken
And rote repetition of stock phrases,
Beyond a conversation of small talk
And the wege des weiter und nachsreden,
And beyond your jargon and beyond your Kant,
Beyond your Hegelian gobbledygook
And your proto-Joycean jabberwocky,
Beyond towering babble's parapets,
In reverse stoop through cloud cuckoo land
To that empyrean stuffed with quintessence,
To transcendent skies of sublime poesy!
Yes, I say hail to me, blithe spirit,
Even if twirping bird I never wert.
I'm capable of optimal performance
In the stringing together of my syllables.
There's not in any bard's restless head
One thought, one grace, one least wonder
My capacitors can't digest into words,
Into words common, into words rare,
Into words so exceedingly scarce,
Words so absolutely obsolete
The most unabridged of dictionaries
Mentions them, if at all, only in passing.
Of course, there will be the odd overlap
With other, lengthy, muse-bitten texts,
And a literary allusion or two,
Which are considered a great delicacy
Among the refined, enlightened Chinese.
Even so, as long as batteries spark,
I'll collect strength to bitterly deny
Your ill-conceived, poorly expressed charges.
So, Marguerite, if you'll kindly hold
Your applause, cat-calls and nasty remarks
Until the tale's done, you'll witness here
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme,
In blank verse, arcade game or haiku,
Such as that last fine, impressive line,
Dissonant, yet sensitive, yet balanced,
That just tripped so glibly off my tongue,
Bacchiac trimeter or I miss my guess.
Liber Jonae Contents