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