Cocky Bennett was a sulphur-crested Cockatoo who lived to the ripe old age of 119 years. After a life of seafaring he came to live at the Seabreeze Hotel at Tom Ugly’s Point, Sydney – where he died in May 1916. The bird had been featherless for much of its life due to suspected Psittacine disease. Cocky was stuffed by Taxidermists ‘Tost and Rohu’ and now resides with the Kogarah Historical Society.
A sentence of one hundred and nineteen years
reveals a portrait of the bird as a pirate.
A claw-beaked sailor of dark brews and beers,
purveyor of bawdy discourse, bar-room brawler.
He circumnavigates the wiry longitudes of his cage,
pale and puckered, scant feathers whorl
and stub pink cockatoo skin as if the cook
had left mid-pluck. The drinkers gather,
they offer profanities as plumage and gawk
at his status as living kitsch, ‘One at a time,
gentlemen, please! Let me think!’
As a centenarian, Cocky’s earned his shrine
in the cabinet of quirk and circumstance.
Now he’s dead they’ve glassed him in.
One hundred and nineteen years. A sentence
twice caged – in life and in death,
tethering freedom in case a bird might fly,
or explore a feather’s breadth.