Parrots (Paul Hetherington)

Beaking and clawing, they strew the ground
where the glimmer of oil
and hallucinations of petrol
leak towards a broken bicycle frame.
Benny threw it down, stripping the wheels,
boasting about buying a car and never needing again
to wobble-navigate across the wetland
where the haze of mosquitoes
was a plague from boyhood adventure stories
made red-faced real; where Jenny Mason
undid clips and shook thick hair
while stretching pale legs
with beauty’s confidence. The boys ogled her
but she chewed gum and flicked her head
in a gesture that said no. Here
Peter Rymans brought binoculars
to study birds, idealising
the colour and preening habits of the parrots
until one day he was found
half-naked in mud and weed
where the McCullers twins had pushed him.
Now those parrots seem like ghosts
haunting the swamp’s redolent memory,
including the day Jenny Mason
showed the story
she had written in looping letters
about the McCullers twins,
and they blushed and protested
as she watched them with an abstracted insouciance.