The Manchester Review
David Wheatley
Three Poems
print view

For The Night Parrot

Flyover, sleepover timezones, daylight
saved and squandered. A Norfolk pine at dusk
screaming with hundreds of rainbow lorikeets.
When landfall comes it comes on a thermal

of rain, warm rain. Zygodactylous,
I walk forwards and backwards at once,
line my casuarina, my creaking hollow,
with gum-leaves and enter tail-first.

I drink your health in mangrove and deadwood pollen
and strip the bark to cheeky, fluttering tongues.
Wattle and eucalypt leaves are also acceptable.
I will preen as I feed you, smoothing your feathers,

their lattice-work of barbules and hooks cresting
to flares of sulphurous delight and alarm.
Out of the seeds we blossom and fledge, an irruption,
the pine dispersing to fill the whole morning sky.

I have begun to speak with the voice of a bird.
Whose voice, warbling, booming, falsetto,
will I imitate if not my own? I perch
on my own shoulder and whisper into my ear.

‘Hey there!’ chatters my particular friend
the gang-gang but having got my attention
deems all further need for speech at an end;
stonewalls my polite inquiries, preferring

to dip, bob and stare straight ahead.
The more I display the more stays hidden,
visible only in UV, my coverts an open
secret by now. Which leaves the night parrot:

to be spoken of in the is/was tense, this artist’s
impression done from an artist’s impression.
Its oneway tunnels have penetrated
all the way into the earth and not come back:

a roadside carcass, 1990, first
in a hundred years and the last. One partial
ps, 2006, found headless:
Orpheus of the night parrot’s vanishing

act, the head rolling and whistling its way
to a halt in a dry river-bed; the Maenads
cheated of their triumph, keening and comfort-
less among the spinifex ever since.