‘Immigrant, suspected resident’ by Maggie Harris

(After a Facebook post by Mick North on the Hummingbird Hawk Moth)

Yes and Mister I can talk English
Better than you eheh
I can quote you Shakeyspeare
Particularly that music being the food of love
And giving me excess of it um hmm

I was Titania let me tell you
And I know the whole of Hecate’s speech
From Macbeth for true true
That was a waste of time
The stupid teacher cut my soliloquy
For someone sounding more English than me.

Proverbs I can recount you
Proverbs: truisms clothed in the garment
Of silk, a bird in the hand...
The vowels of my country sing
In the back of my throat;

For that you are responsible
You offered me this language
And left me beads, the feathers
Had all gone by then
Gone to clothe the heads of dancing girls

And don’t let’s mention the parrots
Their mothers stoned to the ground
Whilst you nestled that trembling birdette
Close to your mistresses’ chest.

Yes mister, I can speak English
But not in the form you know,
And these clothes?
Oh you don’t know the half of it.

Farewell sweet Prince.

Maggie Harris

Wrong place Wrong time….

Press TV BP Deep Horizon oil spill
Magnificent, beautiful creatures aren’t we?
Press TV BP Deep Horizon oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico

Lament to a dead cockerel by Maggie Harris

You posed for our photographs like tourists
Your brother in your wake, heads high
Combs outlined against the ginger lilies

I knelt to centre you within the lens
Red cockscombs on blue St Lucian skies
White whips of wild clouds spinning

Cacti spines cut across your horizon
Flesh fat against the paling fence
Your head, cocked to one side, filling the frame

You escorted us like ushers, up the steps
Past terracotta pots, guava and banana trees
Conch shells cemented into the concrete

In the early mornings you cut into our sleep
With your cacophonous chorus, early risings
With the sun over Rodney Bay

And we linger on the balcony, watching
The yachts on the marina, the hummingbird
Busy in the ivy in the mid-morning sun

Then you again, but this time an angry squawking
You, gripped tight in a fist, disappearing
Through the doors of the restaurant

In the photograph you fill the frame
Head cocked to one side, red cockscomb on blue
St Lucian skies; wild whips of white clouds, spinning.

Maggie Harris

Parakeets by Maggie Harris

(for Chloe)

They haven’t lost their accents – not like me –
Their piercing cries ricochet off Joss Bay Road
Through bark and leaf, beech, elm

Not for the first time, my heart
Flies to meet them, escapees
Celebrating their freedom through procreation

We lift you over the puddles, you’ve got your
School-shoes on: we didn’t expect to see you today
It’s been so long

Your hands grip the dog’s lead tightly, she slows
Knowing it isn’t one of us whom she can drag,
Yank, dash at the slightest scent into undergrowth.

We walk through the farm, up to the lighthouse.
‘I came here once’, you say, ‘with school’.
Four schools ago, and you’re only seven.

But we don’t ask questions, just point out
The rows of cabbages, the horses,
And the sea bright in the winter sun.

You pick a cabbage leaf to show your new teacher,
Find a feather, two; you hand them over
‘Put them in the jar at yours’, you say, ‘with the others’.

On the way back we gather sticks, which Grandad snaps
And places in the carrier for the wood-burner.
Your keen eyes scan the ground.

The parakeets are still there. We rest
On a bench and watch their brilliant lime-green
Plumage zing

Later, I realise
I never told you the story about those home-birds.
In fact, I never mentioned Guyana once.

From Berbice to Broadstairs by Maggie Harris