Birds of Paradise

One man sits in the street
and hooks his eyes on those who pass,
then whistles at them in the tongues
of not-quite-familiar birds.

Another wears black leather and a ten-gallon hat,
and shouts about the coming of the Lord
into the nightshade box hidden in his hand.
The smiling woman buying quiche and apples,

who’s kept herself in trim for Mr Right,
will go to bed tonight and slit her throat.
And I write poetry, and poetry
walks along the edge of all such things

and sometimes the temptation’s there
to step quickly over the line
into the path of what comes roaring out of the dark.
But for now I’ll start another poem,

shut behind my crimson door,
while up the street the man has found
a strange new bird of paradise,
and the Lord has come just a little closer

and a small black choir sings in the woman’s mouth,
like the sound of distant shorelines
endlessly reshaping
in the rage where land encounters the sea.