Liber Jonae



Once, Marguerite, I was not a parrot,
Not inhuman, not at all chimeric
Or possessed of plastic exoskeleton.
At birth I wasn't yet a metamorph
And hadn't yet taken on wings and beak.
My name was Jonah, son of Amitay,
God soak me with glory, dunk me in peace.
I wore a human form, the same as you.
In fact, woman, we might have mated once
And made together a babe who'd breed true,
A child with human nose and human hair,
With fully human, working private parts.

Keep your beak to yourself, parrot, she said.

I know well how some hate hybrids,
Centaurs, manticores and feathered snakes,
Inapt, sterile, dysfunctional monsters
Never really suited for what you need,
Like a portmanteau with two compartments
One side for coat, the other bag lunch,
Neither roomy enough to take a nuke
Should God want a doom dropped off by stealth.
And that's why such luggage goes extinct,
Why all such life goes out of vogue.
Unable to cope or to range through the wild,
They now survive caged in bestiaries
Or doing tricks for food in circus acts
Or prowling the grounds on a rockstar's ranch.
And its not just bigots who turn their backs
On mixed blood races who cannot succeed.
Zoology too hates failed designs,
Selects against the beasts who can't adapt,
The jacks of all trades and masters of none
That stand in pens unemployed and unyoked,
Haggard and lean without hope of reward,
The gryphons, minotaurs, toads and giraffes
That can't do the jobs that users expect,
Like combination clock radios
That neither keep the time nor carry tunes
Nor rightly foretell news, weather and sports.

Had I a knob to twist for tone control
I'd find a way to tune away your whine.

The worst part of a bad fate, I resumed,
Is that cross-breeds rarely get offspring,
Rarely see their likeness re-cast in young.
They're like mermaids that shipwrecked sailors
Haul up out of brine onto the beach,
Over the driftwood and into the trees.
And hungry though these mariners may be,
It isn't to frypans they drag their catch,
The meat too gamey and stringy and tough
To tempt them away from the fresh shellfish
That gasp on sand after breakers retreat.
No, though famished, though greatly confused,
No man marooned would dine on this dish,
Or not right away, not while she's fresh,
Certainly not until pickled or smoked,
Not until preserved in wax-sealed jars
That vow to be true till early next spring.
But the sad news a sailor soon learns
Is that such a prize has no better use.
Wrestled ashore, it just thrashes about,
Taken to bed it grows cold, goes limp,
Transforms perfect union to perfect flop
And stops a passion well short of its goal.
And nothing dampens ardour more than damp,
More than chilled slick when rubbed up against.
These sweet-natured, full-breasted beauties
Will often wed but seldom consummate,
Seldom perform functions men most like,
Not for want of love but for want of want.
You'll never fit with misfit fish girls;
It's best instead just to throw them back,
Although, despite their fins and slimy scales,
They really can't swim more than a league
And only truly excel at short dives,
At bobbing up and down, at treading water,
At looking their best when stared at by men.
One wonders how such species multiply.

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