Poetry by Margaret Chula
The cage is open
and Billy and Cooey are flying around the upstairs room
in our Kyoto house—parakeets entrusted to us
by an English couple leaving Japan.
We awaken to their billing and cooing in our small
tatami room. Us lovers, too, we lie beneath layers
of futon, snow dusting the roof tiles.
Parakeets are birds meant for sunshine
and palm trees, where all day they can dart in
and out of shadows, like lineated jewels.
Japanese would have nightingales in their cages.
Hototogisu. Their song from Hokkaido forests
is heartbreaking, like the trill of a flute
in a Noh play when the ghost of a lover appears
white-faced in gauzy robes, face hidden
behind kimono sleeves.
On this morning of sunshine, Billy and Cooey
swoop and flutter, and land on my paulownia vanity
with mirrors that fold in and out—
and then there are four parakeets, a choir
perched alongside pendants and pearls that clatter
against the mirror when they fly away.
By afternoon there is only Cooey, huddled
in the open cage, bill tucked beneath her feathers.
Her chirps sound like weeping.
Snow drifts in through the open window.
Margaret Chula has published eight collections of poetry including, most recently, Daffodils at Twilight. Grants from the Oregon Arts Commission and the Regional Arts and Culture Council have supported her work, as well as fellowships to the Vermont Studio Center, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and Playa. Maggie has been a featured speaker and workshop leader at writers’ conferences throughout the United States, as well as in Poland, Canada, and Japan. She has also served as president of the Tanka Society of America and as Poet Laureate for Friends of Chamber Music. Living in Kyoto for twelve years, she now makes her home in Portland.