Is that it, bird? Is that all you predict?
My scry alights on that goldfish bowl,
And the date in black I read written there
Is due shortly - what's today? - to expire.
Look at that fish, blank-eyed, droop-finned.
It floats there, not moving, belly up,
Working on neither its tan nor backstroke
In a liquid hung with hollow snail shells
And waterweed fronds turned half to slime.
I think that's what's putting out odour,
A smell possibly fish, possibly death.
It's just sleeping, she said, tapping the bowl.
When the fogs approach horizons are erased.
Let the drumbeat's pulse compel you forth
With djinn alongside unfurling their sails.
Sweating galleyslaves will bring communion,
Pass forward the sacrament bench to bench
To behead as it goes all who don't take,
Dismember the sober and toss out limbs
Into the vines on the overgrown banks.
And when the chop comes up, the oarblades strike
And rise from foam-tipped waves dripping blood.
Saltwater will mix back with saltwater,
Memory mixed into non-memory.
When lions roar even old men will smile,
Forecast a dance, replay a foreplay,
Close up shop and let carnival rise.
Ye righteous in the leg-irons: Look upward!
Hair dishevelled, composure sacrificed,
Godhead grins at last, a grim rictus,
Unable to command or whistle airs
Or send out winds to whip up the seas.
The fish is an extremely heavy sleeper,
She explained, taking a long-handled spoon
To stir stagnant water around the bowl,
Bringing up black eddies from the bottom.
It always wakens, though, at dinnertime.
What comes up from depths, goes back down.
The time has come, I said to Marguerite.
And what time is that, oh parrot? she asked.
Six o'clock. Six o'clock news time,
It's time to turn on your television.
Now, at last, prophecy's season arrives.
Now events begin to repeat my tune.
Virgins, saturnalias reappear!
Now novel prodigies drop from heaven.
They spill out across dusty concrete
As obscene, writhing litters of lizards
From some irradiated dinosaur
Squatting in earth-stationary orbit.
The heavy fruits of our negligence descend
As loose bricks from proud Babel's masonry.
They shower the streets careless of lawsuit,
They arrive with huge thuds on our doorsteps
As unwanted infants, newsprint-wrapped.
Six o'clock! It's time for dinner, she said.
What do you eat? Would you like a cracker?
I'm not that sort of a parrot, I said.
Would you rather a fortune cookie, then,
Slightly nibbled, fortune mostly intact?
I've saved it for weeks now in case of guests.
And just what sort of a parrot are you?
The detail work on your plastic casing
Isn't distinct enough to make a guess.
I'm the plastic sort, the electric sort,
The prophetic sort, that rarest of birds.
But you won't find me listed anywhere
In standard works of ornithology,
In Aristophanes among the ancients,
Or the one by Hitchcock among moderns.
I'm neither domesticated nor wild,
Neither Amazon nor African Gray,
I'm the sort that grows furious, enraged,
Whenever prophetic insight is spurned.
Look at my sharpened beak, behold my eye,
Recognize there a doom unhooded.
Do not provoke me further, Marguerite.
Turn on your television: it's time.
Liber Jonae Contents