The Dime-Store Parakeet

by Gary Soto

Gary Soto

The bird didn't speak
Until the day I dropped my tortilla
And it said, "Ha-Ha."

I dropped other things,
Like my report card in blazing flames.
The parakeet repeated, "Ha-Ha."

Wind rattled the TV antenna on the roof.
Boys with green teeth appeared
At our picture window.

The bird remained silent.

I turned the parakeet upside down—
Boy or girl, I wondered,
And shook it like a salt shaker—
No salt but a dribble of bird turd.

I dropped a spoon—"Ha-Ha."
I dropped a #2 pencil—"Ha-Ha."
I dropped myself into the couch
To eat a bowl of ice cream—"Ha-Ha."

Then it snowed,
The boys with green teeth went away,
And a moose appeared at our picture window.
No comment from the bird.

The parakeet lived in its cage, silent,
Except when I counted my failures
On my fingers and let it put its beak
Like a pipe wrench around my pinkie.

"Bird," I said, "I can count the stars—
What can you do!"
The bird rang its bell with a claw,
And bit its mirror, trying to kiss the image
Of himself, the conceited little shuttlecock!

I dropped a shoe with deadly fumes
And the third orange of my juggler's act.
The bird screamed, "Ha-Ha,"
and raked its dirty beak across the bars.

Then I dropped big ideas,
Like the love for my brother,
Like the love for my country.
Like the love for the nine planets,
Like the love for God because I'm so small,
Like the love for all creatures
Dressed in feathers, fur or little hair.

The bird shed a feather,
And then, like a bat, hung upside down,
The theory that nature speaks to us,
A dumb idea.

Last updated August 19, 2022