The Parrot

(Apologies to Edgar Allan Poe.)
For my own retirement party, 03 Nov 2012.


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, bleak and bleary,
Over many a faint and phoney answer to a midterm question,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, capping off my indigestion.
“‘Tis some student,” then I muttered, “capping off my indigestion —
Seeking answers to the question.”

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in a wet November,
And my dying mental ember wrote some words upon a page.
Dreading then tomorrow’s lecture, vainly I had sought to hector
From my writing some wise vector that would make me seem the sage —
Make at least a feeble gesture thus to earn an honest wage,
Negating the effects of age.

And the silly sad mistaken midterm answers did awaken
Dark despair and desperation I had never felt before;
So that now, to stop the sinking of my heart, I stood there thinking,
“‘Tis some offer to go drinking there outside my office door —
Some sad colleague tired of thinking, knocking on my office door;
This it is, and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my office door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you.” — here I opened wide the door.
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness staring, long I stood there scowling, swearing,
Wond’ring who decided unused lighting was a mortal sin;
But the darkness was unbroken, and the hallway gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Again?
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Again!
To my sustainable chagrin.

Back into my office turning, indigestion fiercer burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than the last.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, putting this annoyance past —
Let my stomach still a moment while I put this in the past;
Then I’ll take antacids, fast!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a scruffy parrot from a pirate film grotesque;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a moment stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my cluttered desk —
Perched upon a Feynman poster just above my cluttered desk —
Perched, and sat there, statuesque.

Then this raunchy bird beguiling my sad scowling into smiling
By the colourful profiling of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy orange plumes I stare at, thou,” I said, “art sure no carrot,
Smelly, bold and silly parrot wandering from the Carib shore —
Tell me what thy pirate name is on the Caribbean shore!”
Quoth the Parrot, “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning — little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird on Hennings’ thirdmost floor —
Bird or beast upon the poster here on Hennings’ thirdmost floor,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the parrot, sitting lonely on the poster there, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered — not a feather then he fluttered —
Till I scarcely more than muttered, “Fantasies have flown before —
On the morrow he will leave me, as my wits have flown before.”
Then the bird said, “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore —
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never — nevermore’.”

But the Parrot still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled an office chair in front of Feynman, ‘cross the floor;
Then upon the cushion sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this raucous bird of yore —
What this rainbow-colored, fat, ridiculous, clownish bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose gaudy plumage gave impressions of burlesque;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On neglected printouts pining there upon my cluttered desk,
A pitiful pile of ancient data damning me from on my desk,
Demanding writeup, Kafkaesque!

Then methought the air grew colder as I gazed upon the folder
Full of formulae and figures that confused me to the core.
“Wretch,” I cried, “what colleague sent thee thus to mock me and torment me?
Theory, please let me invent thee — grant me insight, I implore!
When will I analyze this data, know the purpose it was for?”
Quoth the Parrot, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil! — prophet still, if bird or devil! —
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, here where wiser minds are wanted —
Where intelligence is flaunted — tell me truly, I implore —
What the hell’s a Luttinger liquid? Tell me — tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Parrot, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil — prophet still, if bird or devil!
By the ghost of Feynman — by the intellect of Phil and Bill —
Tell this fading fake if ever, even if I lecture never
And my service duties sever, with a valiant act of will,
If I can understand my data, write it up and publish still.”
Quoth the Parrot, “Never will.”

“Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend,” I shrieked, upstarting —
“Get thee back into the tempest and the soggy, soaking shore!
Leave no orange plume as token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my lethargy unbroken! — quit my poster, out my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form out from my door!”
Quoth the Parrot, “Nevermore.”

And the Parrot, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the phallic Feynman poster just above my desk and more;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the neon o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted . . . nevermore!


Well, that sad ending kind of sucks. How about this alternate ending:

And the Parrot, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the phallic Feynman poster overlooking my workstation;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is scheming
My demise; but he is dreaming! I ignore his accusation,
Focusing on fishing, track and fiction now in combination
On my permanent vacation!

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