Parliament by Carol Ann Duffy

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Then in the writers’ wood,

every bird with a name in the world

crowded the leafless trees,

took its turn to whistle or croak.

An owl grieved in an oak.

A magpie mocked. A rook

cursed from a sycamore.

The cormorant spoke:

Stinking seas

below ill winds. Nothing swims.

A vast plastic soup, thousand miles

wide as long, of petroleum crap.

A bird of paradise wept in a willow.

The jewel of a hummingbird shrilled

on the air.

A stork shawled itself like a widow.

The gull said:

Where coral was red, now white, dead

under stunned waters.

The language of fish

cut out at the root.

Mute oceans. Oil like a gag

on the Gulf of Mexico.

A woodpecker heckled.

A vulture picked at its own breast.

Thrice from the cockerel, as ever.

The macaw squawked:

Nouns I know –

Rain. Forest. Fire. Ash.

Chainsaw. Cattle. Cocaine. Cash.

Squatters. Ranchers. Loggers. Looters.

Barons. Shooters.

A hawk swore.

A nightingale opened its throat

in a garbled quote.

A worm turned in the blackbird’s beak.

This from the crane:

What I saw – slow thaw

in permafrost broken terrain

of mud and lakes

peat broth seepage melt

methane breath.

A bat hung like a suicide.

Only a rasp of wings from the raven.

A heron was stone a robin blood

in the written wood.

So snow and darkness slowly fell

the eagle, history, in silhouette,

with the golden plover,

and the albatross

telling of Arctic ice

as the cold, hard moon calved from the earth.

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7 thoughts on “Parliament by Carol Ann Duffy

    • Every bird, every utterance, the mythical/biblical resonances – powerful stuff. I continue to be amazed by this poem. The bleakness. And yes. It’s the listing that does it. Thanks for responding, Christo.

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