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Yellow Feathers


I’d been teaching in the old

Infectious Diseases Hospital –

we’d been talking about voice

for four hours.

I went to the AIDS Memorial Garden

to unwind.

First I saw the sign:

Men Doing Tree Work.

Then, from the white gum’s vast spread

of branches

thick ropes hung, almost

touching the ground.

Up in the branches

where the hanging ropes begun

crouched men

in high-viz vests

– yellow, orange, green –

quite still, barely flickering

up there in the eucalypt haze.

Below the men

the heavy ropes hung

deep and still in pooled sunlight.

I also stood still,

my hands hanging.

All of us as if

and the tree trailing its ropes

like a hot-air balloon



and later, on the train, going

home, a shabby man

sits beside me. Perched on his arm

a sulphur-crested cockatoo and

without words, just with a gesture

he has the bird unfold

one wing to show the sweep

of yellow feathers beneath.

Then he says, you can touch him.

He won’t hurt you.

Touch him here.

Like this.


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