DAY EIGHTY-NINE – Pascale Petit

Scarlet Macaws

The scarlet macaws want their red back,
not puce or pink but rich rubescence.
They squawk and screech and growl
for the people to give it back.

They want their green and yellow, the ultramarine
and azure of their flight feathers.
They want their green homes to vibrate
against their red plumage.

They don’t want to be eaten.
They don’t want to be sacrificed.
They don’t want to be shot for their celestial light
            and lose their teeth and eyes.
They don’t want to be called Seven Macaw
            and mark the coming of the dry season
            or the hurricane season.

They don’t want to be shot from the world tree
            by the Hero Twins
or be worn by them in a victory headdress.
They don’t want to be bred as pets or for trade.

They want to spread their feathers
like the world’s riches, a currency
that doesn’t cost a thing, that doesn’t
            symbolise blood.
They don’t want their heads chopped off
            and stuck on poles in city temples.

They say their scarlet hue is life.
They say that every tree is an axis mundi
and all their eyes are suns.
They don’t want their heads stuck on grey human bodies
            for funeral rites.

They don’t want their ashes to treat diseases
because no medicine is left, no doctor.

They want to take their place
with the quetzal and the jaguar.
Their feathers are axes,
their feathers are lightning,
their feathers are rain

for everyone, not just the rulers with their royal aviaries.
Sun-macaws are free,
they are prayer-arrows,
Morning Stars,
they are the west wind that brings change.
They are the cardinal directions of health.

Do not bury them in human graves.
Do not bury them as plucked grave-goods
until the country is just a naked carcass
with its feet and wings bound tight around its heart.

Pascale Petit’s sixth collection Fauverie was shortlisted for the 2014 T S Eliot Prize and won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize. Her fifth collection What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo was shortlisted for both the T S Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year, and was a Book of the Year in the Observer. Pascale has had three collections chosen as Books of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement, Independent and Observer. She is the recipient of a 2015 Cholmondeley Award. Bloodaxe will publish her seventh collection Mama Amazonica in 2017.


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