Bird Market, Mong Kok
At dusk, it quietens slowly –
cages are covered with thick hoods,
birds chirp reveille before sleep.
Booths still sell packets of seed,
jewelled swings, tiny bird treats;
a woman pushes plastic bags
across the table and a thousand
grasshoppers and crickets
leap and crackle together.
A dusty, bedraggled macaw
shifts on his perch.
Eight canaries squeeze close,
a rainbow of yellow and orange,
heads dipping into sleep.
In the corner cage, a bulbul flutters
and jerks like an over-wound toy,
red cheeks flashing in the gloom.
Who trapped him from his woodland perch
and crammed him in his tiny prison?
He can sense the sky and trees
above him somewhere, bangs his head
over and over
on his new horizon.
Poet’s note: I spent regular time in Hong Kong a few years ago, teaching writing courses, and had the opportunity to go beyond the usual tourist sights and see all kinds of markets places and events. I visited this place to see the flower market at the front, and found the bird market behind it just as dusk was starting to fall and most people were packing up.
Writing prompt: The key to writing a poem about a particular place is in the details. Choose a place you have been that you remember well, or that you have plenty of photos of, and refresh your memory by free writing or making fast notes on every detail that comes to mind. Don’t censor yourself or edit as you go — see how much you can draw out by persevering. Then write a poem by firstly choosing the most interesting details, then secondly thinking about what you want to convey in the under-levels of the poem. For me in the bird market, it was the gradual realization of how many birds were wild and had been trapped and caged.