poetry, Reviews

Ted Hughes – Macaw and Little Miss

I’m an image whore. I love poetry because it achieves this almost immediately And of course you don’t get much better than Ted Hughes. I enjoy him because he’s the Beethoven of poetry. He creates the storminess and ferocity that many other are afraid to mention and talk about. He uses the animal kingdom to reveal the dark side of humanity. He can be tender at times, but generally he’s vivid and intense.

This poem is probably more suited for a horror film, but I really like it. Comments are always welcome πŸ˜‰

Macaw and Little Miss

In a cage of wire-ribs
The size of a man’s head, the macaw bristles in a staring
Combustion, suffers the stoking devils of his eyes.
In the old lady’s parlour, where an aspidistra succumbs
To the musk of faded velvet, he hangs in clear flames,
Like a torturer’s iron instrument preparing
With dense slow shudderings of greens, yellows, blues,
Crimsoning into the barbs:

Or like the smouldering head that hung
In Killdevil’s brass kitchen, in irons, who had been
Volcano swearing to vomit the world away in black ash,
And would, one day; or a fugitive aristocrat
From some thunderous mythological hierarchy, caught
By a little boy with a crust and a bent pin,
Or snare of horsehair set for a song-thrush,
And put in a cage to sing.

The old lady who feeds him seeds
Has a grand-daughter. The girl calls him ‘Poor Polly’, pokes fun.
‘Jolly Mop.’ But lies under every full moon,
The spun glass of her body bared and so gleam-still
Her brimming eyes do not tremble or spill
The dream where the warrior comes, lightning and iron,
Smashing and burning and rending towards her loin:
Deep into her pillow her silence pleads.

All day he stares at his furnace
With eyes red-raw, but when she comes they close.
‘Polly. Pretty Poll’, she cajoles, and rocks him gently.
She caresses, whispers kisses. The blue lids stay shut.
She strikes the cage in a tantrum and swirls out:
Instantly beak, wings, talons crash
The bars in conflagration and frenzy,
And his shriek shakes the house.

-Ted Hughes

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3 thoughts on “Ted Hughes – Macaw and Little Miss

  1. Milton Corn, M.D. says:

    Vaguely recalled this poem when my attorney daughter sent me a video in which she is cooing baby-talk to a recently purchased macaw, endlessly pacing back and forth in his cage. Identified the poem when I stumbled on your website by trying some key words. (I hadn’t remembered it was by Hughes.) Thank you for bringing some prominence to this extraordinary piece. I shall share the poem with my daughter, and she will be amazed at the shocking shift in POV ( I hope.)

    • I’m glad this poem meant something to you. I certainly regard Hughes as one of the great poets of the 21st century.

      For future reference it comes from his first collection on poems The Hawk in the Rain (1957).

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