Cassowary

July 15, 2022

Dave Kimble, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Cassowary

Only the emu and ostrich outgrow them, 
these flightless, man-sized, razored birds,
scuttling through the thick leaf litter 
like a nightmare turkey; all wattle and claw.
I hear you run at 50 K an hour,
leap fences like a show-jumper,
and swim like a plumed platypus.
Long-lived as any cockatoo,
deep-voiced as a baritone, you strode
your forests these many million years.
Accessorised bright blue and red, 
you balance on stretched palm-leaf feet, 
and only fight when there is no escape.
But no bird can outrun the ropes
of road we push into your world,
those hard nets of bitumen, tightening
like a noose around Queensland's neck.
Huge eggs hatched for aeons
before we brought pigs and dogs and cars
into that humid, secret, fruitful world.
However brave the male who guards
the heap of leaf which hides 
tomorrow's clutch of many birds,
he can't see us off, with our strangling wire,
and our certain need for boundaries.
Cassowaries wear their casques like crowns;
but how long can the regal booming sound,
or chicks survive, in their bright-striped down?

P.S. Cottier

I wrote that poem over ten years ago, and it was first published in The Canberra Times.  I am republishing it as I saw my first wild cassowary earlier this week in far north Queensland, where they live.  A male with a single chick revealed himself after six hours searching.

4 Responses to “Cassowary”

  1. Kathryn Fry said

    Fabulous poem!

  2. wendy Fleming said

    I encountered a cassowary years ago in cairns . A memorable experience.

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