…naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superceded forthwith by a Raven…
—Poe, "The Philosophy of Composition"
Once upon a noon-time awful, as I pondered some unlawful
Business with the neighbor's daughter, maybe on the kitchen floor—
Suddenly there came a knocking, which I felt was somewhat shocking
Since I live in an apartment that has never had a door;
Lazy super never even bothered to put in a door,
Just a doorway, nothing more.
Knocking should have set me thinking, but the fact is I'd been drinking,
And by noon was damn-near stinking, stinking like a barroom whore,
So I thought it the creation of my sopped imagination,
Addled, sopped imagination, which I'd learned to just ignore—
Till the knocking came again, which startled me and made me pour
On my trousers and the floor.
"This is strange," said I, "and scary. I had best be still and wary"—
Talking to myself a habit, once I've drunk a touch or more—
"Surely this must be some spirit. I'll stay put and not go near it.
'Tis no self-deceit;—I hear it, knocking, knocking, o'er and o'er,
And 'tis frightening to imagine what the fiend must have in store—
Knocking where there is no door."
Gazing then upon the curtain, for a moment yet uncertain,
Till again there came a knocking, somewhat louder than before,
Suddenly I saw my blunder—in a flash of brilliance under—
Stood, exclaiming, "O! no wonder! Got it. Now I know the score:
Someone's knocking at my window, up here on the fifteenth floor.
(Better pour myself some more.)"
Open, though, I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter
In there flew a gaudy Parrot, circling then my chamber o'er.
Ghostly shone the near-fluorescence of its feathers—the quintessence
Of some evil spirit's essence—feathers it was shedding. "You're
Dirtying my nice neat chamber. Beat it, Evil Bird!" I swore.
(Sloppy spirits make me sore!)
All my soul within me reeling—suddenly I shook the feeling;
Hey—I told myself—Relax! What's this to get excited for?
So some tattered, tired, sorry bird flew to the fifteenth story—
So it looks like Peter Lorre; don't let's go and panic or
Make a scene about some stupid Parrot perched above the door—
Just a Parrot, nothing more.
Then the Parrot, sly attacker, as the afternoon grew blacker,
Spouted, "Polly want a cracker," and I had to laugh at how
Its request came out so clearly, sounding as if it sincerely
Understood the words, quite nearly human-sounding, I avow—
How I laughed to hear the creature with such grace its words endow!
Quoth the Parrot, "Cracker. Now!"
Now my friends, my former backers, all believe that I've gone crackers,
Though the truth is that I'm just as sane as e'er I was before,
But that Parrot, ne'er retreating, still is eating, still is eating,
Pausing only for repeating "Polly want a cracker" or
Pecking at me as I stand here where there ought to be a door,
Feeding crackers evermore.
first published in Light Quarterly