On my birthday, my mother takes delivery
of a baby capuchin. All week
she has been converting her study
into a nursery, with a cot
and yellow curtains, cupcake patterned.
She feeds the monkey
warm milk from a bottle,
little chunks of papaya and apple.
Hushes and lulls, names it Laura.
The monkey’s scared brown eyes roll like olives.
I want to shake them out of the jar.
Laura wears tiny dungarees
and pinafores, my baby clothes
from the attic, where my parents
had been saving them for grandchildren.
Her photo replaces mine on the fridge.
This one, my mother says, pinning
the monkey’s nappy, will not grow up.
The reason is first that I am a spectacle,
so they fetch me seeds and fresh water,
guard me from cats in a house of metal filigree.
For reason that my feathers spread
plumes of lapis, teal, apricot, and in the non-jungle
colors are rare and most prized.
For that I translate the sunlight into iridescence,
they have need of me.
For the second it is that my voice is more ticklish
than a creeping fig and more honey
than kapok flowers, so that they prefer to hear
their own language from my beak.
They saw themselves walking toward themselves
over peacock-feather lakes that weren’t there,
but they or their reflections disappeared
within touching distance. Father got drunk
using up the booze from the cabin to piss
pleas for help in the sand, but no planes swooped
before it dried. The sand serrated Mother’s
eyelids so that she wept rose-tinted tears
that dripped into the daughter’s open mouth.
In the morning, they found the girl floating
upside down in the air.
They prised open
her mouth and she vomited weeds and fish
that became lizards and hid in the sand.
They buried her and piled up stones
to keep her from floating away. Under the ground,
she listened to the scaly whisperings
of the lizards. Her tongue attuned to the salt
of distant lakes. She grew large, sub-divided,
hatched herself and scattered across the surface
in twelve directions while Mother and Father
crawled on their elbows through the sand,
following themselves in a circle, their bodies
fusing mouth to anus in a writhing ring
as the snake of their mirages swallowed its tail.
A golden bird keeps you
from crossing the fourth wall
of the Dreamhouse.
Swivel-necked Barbies, do not worship
the bird and its glittering solvents. Bury it
in the centre of the earth.
O shining calves!
O breast-precious transmuters!
Put on your pink space suits.
It is dripping golden
feathers that smolder.
Do not be afraid of mirrors.
Find the bird and beat it beyond
the death of stars
with your tennis rackets and skis.
Wear your Malibu sunglasses,
and a sidelong glance. Beat
the glowing trail from your stick-on carpets.
You’re the line in China, Barbies,
do not wait for your Kens,
your princes without fear.
The fury of the air!
The golden rain outshines
your chandeliers and tiki lights.
Hear the crash
of your pink elevator.
Kick off your plastic mules, Barbies,
and run tip-toe
down the spiral staircase
before you singe.
Barbies, can’t you hear, outside,
the Dream Horses
prance restless in their pen?
From your bed, noctilucent paths
are rambling, one of which could lead
through the Tudor knot of yew hedge
to that rose arbour at its centre
where white-slippered sleep is breathing.
Simple to untangle one path after the next
if you still had all night, but fat mice
are eating through the blue and green wool
with which the maze is tapestried.
Though tawny owls, silver-beaked, dive
to unpick the plump bodies, bursting
every pink and yellow cross-stitch,
you’re still awake at dawn, tattered
in your threadbare nest of bones.
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