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.

I woke from uneasy sleep, as feathers tickled
my suddenly sneezy nose. That has not stopped,
and I need to bless myself twelve times a day.
I carry tissues tucked between the feathers.
If you are hit by sodden snow, it is probably
a cloud-like tissue, slipping from inexpert wings.
I would call the wings adequate, though,
as I do not miss the morning commute.
Please do not mistake me for an angel.
I often swear, up here amongst the fluff,
and my fingers pluck no cunning harp.
Mittens cradle my blue-cold hands,
and a beanie holds my head like an egg.
Why this happened to me, I can't really say.
Who has not dreamt of flight? Yet so few
wake to feather doonas sprouting
from shoulders like quotation marks.
'Anything becomes usual, given you have 
enough time to get used to it,' as I said to the press.
I ride updrafts, and predict the patterns of sneeze.
It is quietly wonderful, to share a life with pigeons,
and to perch, a woolly gargoyle, for a quick cup of tea.

PS Cottier

A fun poem, more than the illustration by Hans Tegner, which is excellent but a bit grim. And everyone should recognise the origin of that first phrase!

Glossy black cockatoo

January 16, 2022

Spotted two glossy black cockatoos down at the coast, feasting in a (sort of) suburban yard. Is seeing them purely a good thing, given that so much of the bush burnt recently? Have they been driven beyond their comfort zone, looking for casuarina? The lovely photo of the female cockatoo was taken by a neighbour.

Trees gone glossy
gentle creaking of pods
displacement

PS Cottier

Tuesday poem: If I could

September 20, 2021

If I could

I would infiltrate this page
with seeds, which would sprout
as you read down the few lines,
and leave you with a bush
which you would plant out
and wait for the blessings of birds.

PS Cottier

I stole that title from Wordsworth, of course. I was out for exercise yesterday, and noticed how many birds there are in Canberra, particularly sulphur-crested cockatoos and corellas, with lots of young birds begging to be fed.

corellas

The sun was out, and I found myself plainly happy, totally forgetting about coronavirus for a short while. Of course, just for a moment, and soon it was back to skirting around any other walkers and cyclists. I felt almost guilty for feeling so good, thinking about the many older people stuck inside, and the crew of the cruise ship Ruby Princess still confined aboard, and, of course, the people who have died from the virus.

The hundreds of dogs so delighted that their owners are home so much more now have no inkling as to the virus, and I envy them their lack of knowledge.

My mind wagged
my thoughts spaniels
licking the air

We are lucky that we can still get out and stroll around here in Canberra for necessary exercise, and even buy a takeaway coffee, and observe the natural world that reaches right into suburbia. Helps keep one relatively sane.