The Parrots


My friend Michel is the military leader in Somoto,
                        there near the border with Honduras,
and he told me he discovered a contraband shipment of parrots
set for export to the U.S.
            so that there they would learn to speak English.
There were 186 parrots, and 47 had already died in their cages.
And he sent them back where they'd come from,
and when the truck reached a place
                                    they called The Plains
near the mountain homes of these parrots
            (the mountains looked huge
                                     rising from these plains)
the parrots began to stir and beat their wings
            and jam themselves against their cage walls.
And when the cages were opened
they all flew out like arrows in the same direction
                                                      toward their mountains.
This is the same thing, I think, that the Revolution did to us:
it took us out of the cages
                        in which they'd carried us off to speak English.
It brought us back the homeland from which they'd uprooted us.

The soldiers green like parrots
                        gave the parrots their green mountains.
            But there were 47 who died.


                                      Spanish; trans. Marc Zimmerman


Ernesto Cardenal, Spanish, trans. Marc Zimmerman, Flights of Victory/Vuelos de Victoria, Curbstone Press, 1995.