Parrots Over Suburbia

By Craig van Rooyen

Featured art by McGill Library

There are two,
as if some ark came to rest
on the high school football field
and Noah flung them through an open window
to test whether this cement-skinned town
can sustain life.
See them there, trimming
lava-dipped wings in the sky above Costco,
bills curved like question marks.
And what do they ask, out of earshot
of the man with sunflower seeds?
Do you know what it means
to circle, to draw and redraw the tightening
circumference of your life
above the grid of 50-year roofs,
in steak smoke risen from backyard barbecues?
The parrots’ owner is no prophet.
Summer evenings, he wrenches
on a ’67 Mustang that drips its innards
onto his Avenue L driveway.
And at dusk, he makes his arm a perch,
takes the two from their cage,
feeds them from his lips, knowing
if they love him he need not maim their wings.


So they fly in circles
and on every pass above the fenced playground,
swoop near to watch the girl in high-tops and earbuds
swinging, head thrown back to reveal
her pale and wild throat.


Craig van Rooyen lives and writes in San Luis Obispo, California. He is winner of the 2014 Rattle Poetry Prize and a finalist in the 8th Annual Narrative Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Willow SpringsSouthern Poetry ReviewNarrative, and elsewhere. He is an MFA candidate in poetry at Pacific University.

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