Birds of Illegal Trade

Blue and Red Macaws by Shunko (Harumitsu). Color woodblock print. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

To be a traitor is to trade—
     Take, for example, the blue macaw

of my childhood, traded
     for two rocks of crack

and a dime of blow. My block raided
     each week by waves of drive-bys,

waves of cops, while I sprayed Raid
     on roaches, white powder on fire

ant mounds, bedbugs, though nothing aided.
     Into Houston’s Fifth Ward

the hyacinth macaw was added,
     intensely blue as is allowed

only to royalty. I felt like a traitor
     just to behold it, tied to the T

of a laundry post, misty canopy traded
     for a man’s pit-stained shirts strung

on a line. My brothers and I would have raided
     the house if we could, taught the bird

more than cuss words. The owner stated,
     my pit-bull’s gonna eat your face

if I catch you here again. The bird ate it,
     the medley of banana and guava

from our own front yard. The image hasn’t faded:
     a royal blue macaw—lazuli, cobalt,

sapphire, none of these would I have traded
     for the view through my chain-link fence,

clutching the rusted wire diamonds—added
     to my mind like a cigarette goes through

a t-shirt, like the sun, visible though bated,
     reaches the forest floor. Siren lights

whirled their blue as the police raided
     his shot-gun house. We relieved our knees

to lift our palms, surrender-style, fated.
     We could rub the crosswire patters off,

but the smell of iron stuck to us
     and hasn’t faded.

Benjamin Garcia is a community health specialist who provides HIV/HCV/STD and opioid overdose prevention education to higher-risk communities throughout New York’s Finger Lakes region. He won the 2018 Puerto del Sol Poetry Contest and has work forthcoming in New England Review, American Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner.
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