I speak to the unbeautiful of this bird.
                                         James Merrill

The peacock thinks he can’t be seen:
Stealthily towards the cat-food bowl
He stalks, while I’m behind the screen
Coffee in hand: peacock patrol.
More blue than the Saronic, green

As bristles on Aleppo pines,
Perhaps he thinks he only … blends?
And often, as the day declines,
A raucous mob of fowl ascends
To virid roosts, while dusk defines

The drooped flabella of their tails
And flails of needles just the same.
(The perfect camouflage for males
It turns out.) Neither wild nor tame,
The feral population hails

From elsewhere – someone brought them here,
But no one keeps them, and they breed.
Each spring, new chicks – chick peas? – appear.
They’ll gobble anything. They’ll feed
On cat food, tulip bulbs; they smear

Flagstones with shit. On lizard feet,
Jurassic more than Pleistocene,
He creeps back, and I let him eat
To watch the iridescent sheen
A hundred irises repeat,

But also note the lapis crown,
Egyptian-kohl-mascara-ed eyes,
His zebra wings, the russet brown
Beneath. He rustles with surprise,
Train trailing like an evening gown

When I go shoo him off again.
(Some mornings I have heard a rattle
Like a shock of summer rain,
When one, fanned out, vibrates for battle
With a false twin in the window pane.)

When he absconds, he leaves behind
A duller shade, a haunt of blue,
A dazzled blindspot in the mind.
I’ve read that science says the hue
Is something that you will not find

Peering through microscopes: there’s no
True blue to dye his plumes; despite
The after-burn of indigo,
It’s all a trick of light, a sleight
Of keratin arranged just so –

Armoured in light, in light arrayed,
A cloak of visibility!
They say the colour will not fade,
Because it is not there to see,
The brilliance new, because new-made

By shedding light, by flash and flaunt.
Sly peacock! Back again for scraps!
Dismissive gestures seem to daunt:
He bustles off, with little flaps,
Like taffeta and debutante.

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