Mother’s Parrots

Once my little brother

            blackened every parrot

                        on Mother’s favorite couch,

then signed my name to his work.

            When Father walked in,

                        brother rushed to the door,

Look at what she’s done—

            Father began to pace,

                        sweat, and clutch his forehead.

When Mother returned home,

            she summoned me and my brother;

                        handed us buckets and rags:

Neither of you will leave,

            until this couch is perfect.

                        And if you don’t stop fighting,

she added glaring hard,

            I will leave for good,

                        and you won’t have a Mother—

all night we both scrubbed,

            and scrubbed Mother’s parrots,

                        while listening to our Mother

scream upstairs at Father;

            then Mother’s car roared off,

                        and brother ran out after—

he stayed outside a while,

            then appeared in my doorway

                        holding a baseball bat:

I wish that you would die—

            he said, smashing my mirror.

                        Then he went to the basement

where Father was practicing:

            Excuse me for interrupting,

                        but I’ve finished the parrots.

Good, Father said, still playing,

            humming and closing his eyes.

                        Come, see what I’ve done,

brother said, tapping Father.

            Later, Father nodded,

                        still humming Debussy,

and leaning back in the bench,

            not seeing the colorful birds,

                        now gathering by the hundreds,

and flying all over the house.


Jodie Hollander’s work appears in journals such as the Poetry Review, the Yale Review, PN Review, the Kenyon Review, Poetry London, the Hudson Review, the Dark Horse, the New Criterion, The Rialto, Verse Daily, The Best Australian Poems of 2011, and The Best Australian Poems of 2015. Her debut full-length collection, My Dark Horses, was published with Liverpool University Press & Oxford University Press. Her second collection, Nocturne, will be published with the Liverpool & Oxford University Press in the spring of 2023. She currently lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.