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Tova Gabrielle

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non-fiction ode to a lost winged friend

I dreamt of you again last night, my lemony Indian Ringneck. From reservoirs of unrealized selves you arose, summoning up forgotten presences and traditions: more fitting ways of being on this Earth. Happy as ever to join worlds, you came forth from isolation, waddling with your ankles almost collapsed from baby malnutrition.

[Other nights I fall asleep wondering how I can support myself, and dream that my knees are collapsing.]

You, like I, were pulled from the mother, while yet in embryonic consciousness; ripped out of a frame that held together puzzles of unlived lives.

I'm reminded of an impressionist painting of a deceased artist: to make it fit upon a wall, the curators hacked off the bottom--characters in the painting seemed to be falling off of the bottom edge. There is no longer an entry point. People complain of brusqueness--an unfeminine trait we posess. Skewed and falsified in attempts to accommodate walls not our own, we too seem to topple out of pictures and places.

You, having forgotten your native song, imitate humans, whining dogs, while I forgot my lineage, say uncool things in public. Our bodies weakened and wobbly, we're trying in vain to fit someone else's arbitrary concepts.

We were hand-fed man-made concoctions, emptied of life's magic, robbed of natural inheritances: emotion-laden nutrients and sacred communication from the mouth of the parent to the mouth of the bappie.

You fly into the screen door, plop to the kitchen floor. It is not our fault we don't know how to make it out there, honey.

Mitch, and I note that you seem half-cocked, waddling along slowly, sweeping the floor willy-nilly with your long tail. We laugh and call you waltzing Matilda.

[At work, hung over from sugar and caffeine, A co-worker eyes me with slight suspicion, mostly curiosity and affection: she cocks her head, and asks if I'm high.]

It is said that you Ringnecks don't bond. Is it because you take on different mates unlike the others who pair for life? Can you truly not bond or do you simply reject bondage? Would they say that a Nun or a Yogi can't bond?

Full of contradictions, the one we call "Blond Bimbo", you are the one Mitch and I take turns bringing to bed when our spirits get laden and earthbound. We choose you from the rest of the flock. It is always you of whom I dream, my buttercup, so bright, so untenable, yet as tender as any I've had or tamed.
Yet you've had me. In daylight I've made light out of you, affectionately called you a slut because you would lay yourself out in the palm of a hand of anyone who would turn you on your back to rub your breast, sticking one talon into your beak as if biting a nail, awaiting a compliment or a scratch under the wing.
Like a man, I claimed that I didn't need you at all, could sell or trade you tomorrow because I was not attached to you in the same way I was to the others. But the other Ringnecks, both males, flew away.

Pasha, with the necklace of black, aqua and fuchsia, wriggled right out of Mitch's hands and flew away for a fatal vacation.
After Pasha left I was rolling up intricate patterns of colored clays to make a millefiori necklace. I kept crying and working feverishly to distract myself, cutting the clay open to view the new symmetrical designs . Four times there emerged from the colors an icon of a parrot in flight. Some archetypal being or was it my parrot self was reassuring me, he returns to his true nature, no need to cry.
I remember how you chased away the aloof and exquisite Cleo in preference for you brother by whom you knelt, craning your neck, begging to be fed by him, acting like a baby. Cleo was never aloof towards you. You appeared in my animistic projection as cruel, menacingly poking at Cleo, fickle and incestuous by human terms.
Then, fickle girl, when Pasha wasn't looking, you would sidle up to Cleo and rest your downy head in his breast as if to say, "of course I still love you...".

Now you have lost or abandoned three mates to the wind and the illusion of summers. Lost to the irresistible green heights, which apparently imbue you all with new flight feathers. How is it that you Asians who could reach no heights indoors but only hop or flutter to the floor, suddenly flew, when we held you outdoors? Was it the songs yet unsung in your pulsing breasts that imbued you with such lightness as to lift you out of our tight love? I claimed I could let you go to a breeder, called you ridiculous because you choose to mimic only discordant sounds and not the Enie Kleine Nacht whistles or the cordial hello's and wolf whistles of your rival, our blue crowned Amazon, Simpkah.
No, you only imitate the tones that itch and annoy, that interrupt Sunday morning slumbers: a whining pup, Nemo, a black crowned soul bird who was stolen from his flock and his beloved rain forests--his shrill territorial warnings to all that alighted on his yard, announcing his dominion, to real and mostly imagined intruders. It would be funny that you do these things, but you abandoned your own undulating song when your brother abandoned you.
I have considered sending you elsewhere but the one time I sent you to a friend's home you were sent back with a bad report: she called you a "bad bird", "A biter," and I had to rethink my feelings for her.
You were merely frightened to death. Why couldn't she, who'd been so nurturing to humans see that? Why did she leave you alone with the cat whom you glowered at from behind the bookcase where you crouched? I retrieved you as I'd done in the pet shop when the whites of your eyes had turned red from stress, looking haggard although still a baby. You looked at Mitch when we returned home and spoke with your eyes such relief.
We know what you mean, can hear your feelings, simply from living with you. You are the one the only one who sleeps all night cuddled in the crook of my neck when I am not willing to contain my hurting, can receive no more comfort from humans. Humans are unable to absorb each others' pain. You are the one who gets in, who loves me tenaciously and yet with exquisite subtlety. You slip right though the veil into my dreams as softly lapping broken waves upon the shore of my consciousness, washing over and healing me, surrounding me with your golden innocence, saying to me that it's OK to be imperfect, be vulnerable. I remember that life embraces suffering, that it's inevitable and can't be avoided. You make slight flap flapping sounds with your wings, contentment in the privileged dark.
And then the day folds a curtain down over that reality. My mind recoils from the images alive with sensation and we are each alone again.

I can barely recall the dream now, only that you were in a cage with bigger birds who could have hurt you but who chose not to. Perhaps like me, in Man's World. Perhaps we are no longer endangered, but simply require more open space and attention. In the dream I keep trying to bring you home, but I'm hampered by reservations and doubts about how to care for you properly. In the dream you were in the care of an abused heavy set woman, a judgmental self, burdened by your neediness, your demand to be as you only know how to be, and not be destroyed. I offer to relieve her of the burden of you, to take you home, to extracise you from her oppressive demands: to walk straight, eat right, forget the lightness of your phantom flight feathers.
The dream is unfinished. I only know that clutter would make me forget you and slight you again and again.
Yet you call me forth from this heavy denial, this insistence on accommodating frames that don't fit. You reflect to me the spirit shining within the cage of memories and desires to join a flock that has no trees and no roots, to take you in your imperfection, with awareness and pain and love and to continue the hard work of making a new home in this foreign land, our home.

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Reviewed by Chrissy McVay 2/3/2007
Wonderful write!


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