Macaw and Little Miss

By Ted Hughes

In a cage of wire-ribs
The size of a man's head, the macaw bristles in a staring
Combustion, suffers the stoking devils of his eyes.
In the old lady's parlour, where an aspidistra succumbs
To the musk of faded velvet, he hangs in clear flames,
   Like a torturer's iron instrument preparing
   With dense slow shudderings of greens, yellows, blues,
       Crimsoning into the barbs:

   Or like the smouldering head that hung
In Killdevil's brass kitchen, in irons, who had been
Volcano swearing to vomit the world away in black ash,
And would, one day; or a fugitive aristocrat
From some thunderous mythological hierarchy, caught
   By a little boy with a crust and a bent pin,
   Or snare of horsehair set for a song-thrush,
       And put in a cage to sing.

   The old lady who feeds him seeds
Has a grand-daughter. The girl calls him 'Poor Polly', pokes fun.
'Jolly Mop.' But lies under every full moon,
The spun glass of her body bared and so gleam-still
Her brimming eyes do not tremble or spill
   The dream where the warrior comes, lightning and iron,
   Smashing and burning and rending towards her loin:
       Deep into her pillow her silence pleads.

   All day he stares at his furnace
With eyes red-raw, but when she comes they close.
'Polly. Pretty Poll', she cajoles, and rocks him gently.
She caresses, whispers kisses. The blue lids stay shut.
She strikes the cage in a tantrum and swirls out:
   Instantly beak, wings, talons crash
   The bars in conflagration and frenzy,
       And his shriek shakes the house.


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