Yellow Beak

Stephen Dobyns

 
A man owns a green parrot with a yellow beak
that he carries on his shoulder each day to work.
He runs a pet shop and the parrot is his trademark.
Each morning the man winds his way from his bus
through the square, four or five blocks. There goes
the parrot, people say. Then at night, he comes back.
The man himself is nondescript—a little overweight,
thinning hair of no color at all. It's like the parrot owns
the man, not the reverse. Then one day the man dies.
He was old. It was bound to happen. At first people
feel mildly upset. The butcher thinks he has forgotten
a customer who owes him money. The baker thinks
he's catching a cold. Soon they get it right—the parrot
is gone. Time seems out of sorts, but sets itself straight
as people forget. Then years later the fellow who ran
the diner wakes from a dream where he saw the parrot
flying along all by itself, flapping by in the morning
and cruising back home at night. Those were the years
of the man's marriage, the start of his family, the years
when the muddle of his life began to work itself out;
and it's as if the parrot were at the root of it all, linking
the days like pearls on a string. Foolish of course, but
do you see how it might happen? We wake at night
and recall an event that seems to define a fixed period
of time, perhaps the memory of a beat-up bike we had
as a kid, or a particular chair where we sat and laughed
with friends; a house, a book, a piece of music, even
a green parrot winding its way through city streets.
And do you see that bubble of air balanced at the tip
of its yellow beak? That's the time in which we lived.
 
Reprinted with permission of Penguin Books, a division of The Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Poems by This Author

Lost by Stephen Dobyns
A cry was heard among the trees


Further Reading

Poems about Living
"I'm afraid of death"
by Kathleen Ossip
A Toast
by Ilya Kaminsky
Another Elegy
by Jericho Brown
Ashes of Life
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
August, 1953
by David Wojahn
bonne chance de lycee
by Buck Downs
C'est La Guerre
by Danniel Schoonebeek
Characteristics of Life
by Camille T. Dungy
Corpse Flower, Luna Moth
by Daniel Tobin
Costumes Exchanging Glances
by Mary Jo Bang
Daily Life
by Susan Wood
Difficult Body
by Mark Wunderlich
Elegy in Joy [excerpt]
by Muriel Rukeyser
En Route
by Darcie Dennigan
far memory
by Lucille Clifton
First Things to Hand
by Robert Pinsky
Flowers of Rad
by Sampson Starkweather
Forth Into View, Random Warriors
by Pattiann Rogers
from Oracles for Youth
by Caroline Gilman
from Two Inch Fables
by Marilyn Chin
Frozen
by Natasha Head
How to Uproot a Tree
by Jennifer K. Sweeney
I could suffice for Him, I knew (643)
by Emily Dickinson
I Have a Rendezvous With Life
by Countee Cullen
I Know A Few Things
by Stuart Dischell
In a Landscape: IV
by John Gallaher
In Betweenness
by Pierre Joris
Insomnia
by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Life
by Joe Brainard
Life is Fine
by Langston Hughes
Little Night Prayer
by Péter Kántor
Living in Numbers
by Claire Lee
Lost and Found
by Ron Padgett
Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus [excerpt]
by Denise Levertov
Meaning
by Carl Dennis
Meditation 29
by Philip Pain
Montparnasse
by Ernest Hemingway
My Teacup
by Alli Warren
On Disappearing
by Major Jackson
On Living
by Nazim Hikmet
On the Gallows Once
by Kofi Awoonor
One Train May Hide Another
by Kenneth Koch
Past Inclemency & Present Warmth
by Eryn Green
Poem Excluding Fiction
by Noah Falck
Preparation
by Effie Waller Smith
Primitive State [excerpt]
by Anselm Berrigan
Roar Shack
by Alice Fulton
Samurai Song
by Robert Pinsky
Song for Future Books
by Joanna Fuhrman
Songs of a Girl
by Mary Carolyn Davies
Sonnet
by Bill Knott
Spent
by Mark Doty
sugar is smoking
by Jason Schneiderman
Summer in Winter in Summer
by Noah Eli Gordon
Tear It Down
by Jack Gilbert
The Clouded Morning
by Jones Very
The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz
The Life So Short...
by Eamon Grennan
The Old Stoic
by Emily Brontė
The Pain
by Laura Kasischke
The Secret
by Denise Levertov
This is My Life
by William Stanley Braithwaite
Thoughts
by Walt Whitman
Thrown as if Fierce & Wild
by Dean Young
Variation on a Theme
by W. S. Merwin
Virgil's Hand
by Francesc Parcerisas
What the Living Do
by Marie Howe
What Wild-Eyed Murderer
by Peter Meinke
What's Left (Al-Mutanabbi Street)
by Katrina Roberts
Where I Live
by Maxine Kumin
won't you celebrate with me
by Lucille Clifton
[I'm not with my]
by Joshua Beckman
Poems about Pets
Eighth Air Force
by Randall Jarrell
Flush or Faunus
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Goldfish Are Ordinary
by Stacie Cassarino
Jogging with Oscar
by Walt McDonald
Mother Doesn't Want a Dog
by Judith Viorst
My Grandmother's White Cat
by Maurice Kilwein Guevara
Next Day
by Randall Jarrell
Ode on the death of a favorite cat
by Thomas Gray
Stones in the Air
by Anna Journey
That Sure is My Little Dog
by Eleanor Lerman
tomorrow I leave to El Paso, Texas
by Juan Felipe Herrera