Monday, October 25, 2010

All Parrots Speak (Paul Bowles)

I. The boat came in fifteen hours late, and there was nothing we could do but sit in the breathlessly hot room and wait.  Nothing, that is, until the proprietor appeared in the doorway with a full-grown parrot perched on his finger and asked us if we wanted to converse with it. 

“Does it speak?” I asked.

Claro que si.  All parrots speak.”  My ignorance astonished him.  Then he added, “Of course it doesn’t speak English.  Just its own language.”

II. The next pstticine annexation to the household (in the interim came an armadillo, an ocelot and a tejon – a tropical version of the raccoon) was a parakeet named Hitler.  He was about four inches high and no one could touch him.  All day he strutted about the house scolding, in an eternal rage, sometimes pecking at the servants’ bare toes.  His voice was a sputter and a squeak, and his Spanish never got any further than the two words perquito burro (stupid parakeet), which always came at the end of one of hs diatribes; trembling with emotion, he would pronounce them in a way that recalled the classic orator’s “I have spoken.”

III. Two parrots live with me now.  I put it thus, rather than, "I own two parrots", because there is something about them that makes them very difficult to claim as one's property.  A creature that spends its entire day observing the minutiae of your habits and vocal inflections is more like a rather critical friend who comes for an indefinite stay.

IV. I think my susceptibility to parrots may have been partly determined by a story I heard when I was a child.  One of the collection of parrots from the New World presented to King Ferdinand by Columbus escaped from the palace into the forest.  A peasant saw it, and never having encountered such a bird before, picked up a stone to hit it, so he could have its brilliant feathers as a trophy.  As he was taking aim, the parrot cocked his head and cried “Ay, Dios!”  Horrified, the man dropped the stone, prostrated himself, and said, “A thousand pardons, senora!  I thought you were a green bird.”

Excerpts from Their Heads Are Green And Their Hands Are Blue

See also:   Here for The Cow
                 Here for The Cobra


  1. Marvelous, wonderful, y muy hermosa.

  2. Thanks so very much. I love Their Heads Are Green and All Parrots Speak is an amazing piece. Am currently trying to post something back re A Slice Of Empty but Blogger is being recalcitrant. I imagine it will settle down. Curtis