Rich - Jessica Manack

These parrots will be my inheritance:

these clipped-wing, leash-trained useless things

all that’s left at the end. All the money spent.

All the flowers dead. Making the sounds

of fax machines and microwaves,

they ensure we never forget the 80s,

the 90s, the oughties, the mundanities,

the Mommys evolving to Mom to just Ma,

Ma. Ma. (Slam.) Ma. Hey Ma. (Beep.) Ma.

They reflect our truest natures forever,

sentiments rippling through decades:

the Honeybuns, the Damnits, every sweet word

in the middle of ugly ones. Every gift an apology.


Vestige of the rich days, these parrots flew in on our whims: somber Veronica, salty Martini. They’ve seen all our phases: the burlap wallpaper, chartreuse carpet, the Hemingway living room, the lottery wins, the Volvo we couldn’t hold onto, seized back by the bank one evening after dinner, the fire, the aftermath of playing with matches. Breathing in all the soot we feed them, they belch out our reflections: Here we go, Steelers, here we go! Oh Christ, be near me. O lordamercy.

Nothing is promised except that these parrots will outlive me and you and all our bad decisions. We exist until there’s no longer someone who can mimic the timbre of our sneeze. I’ve never expected any windfall, and I don’t know how to deal with such a burden: giving away creatures that speak in my voice. It would be easier with a turtle, with a bauble, with anything that didn’t fill the world with my song.

These parrots have marked me already: I wear a ghost ring on my pinky finger from where one almost wrenched it off. Our marriage outlived its spark; our groans perpetually echo in the air. And will I pass them on again, to my children, or someone's, will they one day leave their tiny little rooms and fly, somewhere, somehow, singing: We may not have the money! But we’ll always have the songs about the money!

Jessica Manack holds degrees from Hollins University and lives with her family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her writing has recently appeared in Prime Number Magazine and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and is forthcoming in High Shelf Press.

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