At the Parrot House, Taronga Park

By Vivian Smith b. 1933 Vivian Smith
What images could yet suggest their range
of tender colours, thick as old brocade,
or shot silk or flowers on a dress
where black and rose and lime seem to caress
the red that starts to shimmer as they fade?
 
Like something half-remembered from a dream
they come from places we have never seen.
 
They chatter and they squawk and sometimes scream.
 
Here the macaw clings at the rings to show
the young galahs talking as they feed
with feathers soft and pink as dawn on snow
that it too has a dry and dusky tongue.
Their murmuring embraces every need
from languid vanity to wildest greed.
 
In the far corner sit two smoky crones
their heads together in a kind of love.
One cleans the other’s feathers while it moans.
The others seem to whisper behind fans
while noble dandies gamble in a room
asserting values everyone rejects.
 
A lidded eye observes, and it reflects.
 
The peacocks still pretend they own the yard.
 
For all the softness, how the beaks are hard.

Vivian Smith, “At the Parrot House, Taronga Park” text from New Selected Poems, Angus & Robertson, 1995; audio from The Other Side of Things, Audio CD, 2008: by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 2008 by Vivian Smith.

Source: New Selected Poems (Angus & Robertson, 1995)

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Poet Vivian Smith b. 1933

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Subjects Animals

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

Biography

Literary critic and editor Vivian Smith was born in Hobart, Tasmania. He earned an MA in French from the University of Tasmania, teaching in the French Department before moving to Sydney to earn his PhD in English at the University of Sydney. His books include The Other Meaning (1956), An Island South (1967), Familiar Places (1978), Tide Country (1982), Selected Poems (1985), New Selected Poems (1995), Late News (2000), The . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Animals

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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