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Individual Voices / Natural Forms

Winter, 2006

Brendan Constantine

To The Reader

A friend of mine had a parrot named Freddy
and tried for a long time to teach the bird
to speak, but all he ever learned to say was
Hello Freddy,
            which is what my friend said
every day when he came home from work.
 From his cage, the bird could look out
a chipped green window over the whole
city and out to the sea. But nothing
moved him to name any of it.

Then one morning a great earthquake
shook the house, a doll's house in the hands
of a crazy child. My friend owned
a water bed
        and woke to high tides slapping
books and pillows to the floor. Somewhere
in the crash and groan around him, he could hear
talking, as though a radio had turned itself on
to plead for the house. But he owned no radio.
He'd bought Freddy instead.

Across the room, Freddy's cage swung
on its hook like a wrecking ball, and inside it
a frenzied yellow green flapping of wings,
an almost digital voice repeating

Hello Freddy! Hello Freddy! Hello Freddy!

My friend laughed until the house was still
again. Then walked into the stillness
of the next ten years telling that story.

But, this isn't what I had in mind to say
when I sat down to write. You see I have
been at a chipped window of my own all day,
watching the city grind itself
                                    into noise
like the spikes of a music box. It hasn't
played anything I could name. Then
I remembered you and got scared because
we're both in real danger. I felt I needed
to warn you, to tell you how to save our lives.
These are the words I have.