IN ETHIOPIA, BIRDS DO NOT SING

In Ethiopia
birds do not sing.
They sit in the Emperor's courtyard
clicking their tongues.
One of them—
it is the yellow-tailed
orange-crested
daughter of a courtly odalisque—
clears her throat.
She scuffs the toes
of her patent leather shoes
on the stone paving.
Her wings come open—
they make a sound like mice
in a grannery.

That was nice, says her neighbor.

After a moment
they all go back to sleep.
—d.n. stuefloten