Toucan against white background

Mag Gabbert

My favorite thing
About Keats
Is his belief that I might
Leave the world unseen

I once left
An imaginary toucan
In a little statue alcove
At my grandmother’s

I procured him one summer
At camp where we sat
In this velvet room
Like a puppet theater
Asked a genie for a present
We couldn’t see

Then I kept him
At grandmother’s because
She let me watch TV
Bought me animal balloons
Some were jet like my bird
Not like cereal or fruit

Sometimes I brought
My toucan things too a watch
Hairpins some green-
Bright coins glass

Then grandmother fell
One day and threw
Her hands in his alcove home
Glass stems the leaves
On her robe flew up
Out scattered his feathers
Petals pumpkin seeds

I watched it all
Happen the whole thing
Injured bleeding my bird
Took wing though I reached
For his lacquer-sharp beak

Part of me
Wants to go back and see
If I could still
Climb up there hug
My knees if the alcove
Is still empty without yellow
Orange green without

My grandmother
Her floral silk sleeve the hand
Reaching toward me
It is icy
Like Keats
I cannot see what flowers
Which cup shattered
At my feet

Part of me doesn’t want
To talk about grandmother
I want only
To talk about Keats now
Anemic bright showy
His lips crimson split
So Romantic and easy

My childhood wasn’t
Happy but should be
Or have been
I mean
Was it a vision a waking

At night I am standing
On a beach
With the ghost of Keats
There’s a toucan on every
Branch of each tree 

Immortal bird
Thou wast not born
For death
Says Keats as he hands
Me a coconut drink
Its beaded bubbles wink

There’s a hot pink straw
In my purple-stained mouth
Musk-rose and violet my
Lips my head start ringing
Too first pale white
Yellow then

Mag Gabbert author photoMag Gabbert is currently a PhD candidate in creative writing at Texas Tech University, and she previously received an MFA from The University of California at Riverside. Her essays and poems have been published or are forthcoming in journals including 32 Poems, The Rattling Wall, The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, LIT Magazine, Sugar House Review, and Sonora Review, among other venues. Mag also serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. For more information, please visit

Read more from Cleaver Magazine’s Issue #20.

Cleaver Magazine