Crow’s Nest

This house is build on the footprint of one 
that burnt when all this country burnt. 
Oh Crow, we humans were different 
before. We were innocent like animals,
waking each morning to sunshine 
or no sunshine. The only complication 
was the mind playing with its abacus. 

Well, we are still simple, sound of body, 
but with burnt edges, the mind a chaos
of new growth and charred wood. 
But Crow, what we were before, we’re not. 
Is that why you surround this new house 
with your songs of life? Yours is a dark beauty
but your vision of life springing from death 
is as true the magpies’ who melody about love 
in the skeleton trees on the ridge.

. . . . . . .

Another crow poem. There may be more from now on because:

Before the fires Ervin fed magpies. We watched generations grow up, witnessed the shifting power structures when a dominant pair died, were entertained and delighted. One year we even raised a baby. We were magpie people.

Since coming home (and it does now feel like home) no magpies come. Crows have taken the space, they come for the meat morsels, they sit on the railings of the deck and drink from the birdbath. So far, and surprisingly, they have not crapped there.

Magpies fly by with indifference. 

I don’t understand much, but, for the want of better words, it is like the totem of the land has changed. 

We have changed. Perhaps when you traverse the threshold of trauma something essential changes. For some unknown reason it seems apt that crows would be the dark messengers of growth for me at this time.

Unexpected Lecture on Global Warming from a Bird

This morning a Brown Treecreeper 
tapped on the window. 
‘Wake up!’ he said. 
But I was already awake because 
he’d been tapping on the mirror 
of the van in which I’d been sleeping 
since it was light enough to see.

Perhaps you don’t know the Brown Treecreeper.
He hops around on the ground,
quite game, pecking at goodness knows what,
tiny things, insects, ants.
And he shimmies up tree trunks with his weird legs
as if there was no such thing as gravity.

Anyhow, when he tapped on the window beside my face,
he said, ’Wake up! It’s time to wake up.’
And added, as if it was unimportant,
‘Wake up to this beautiful world.
Save it. Save us. Save yourself.’

Chickadees and other haiku sized birds

We don’t have chickadees here; they are completely out of my experience. But ‘chickadees’ is the prompt on Nahaiwrimo today, so I had to look them up.

They are of the genus Poecile, a northern hemisphere genus. Titmouse is another name for them, apparently. I’m so pleased that I now know a titmouse is not actually a mouse. See how haiku can increase your education!

Also I went to YouTube and found out some fascinating stuff, like: they live through long winter nights and short foraging days by lowering their internal temperatures. They can feed upside down. Their hippocampus grows in autumn and winter so that they have more memory and can remember where they left their food stash. (I could use a little hippocampus growing, now and again.) Their chickadeedeedee call varies according to the level of threat. They have another high-pitched alarm call that other types of bird respond to. They have a call that people name their, ‘Hey, Sweetie!’ call. It’s used to attract females.

That set me to thinking about humans and how we love to give names to the behaviours of the animals and birds around us. ‘Hey, Sweetie’ sounds very American to me. We’d probably say, it’s the bird’s ‘Hey Sexy legs’ call, or something equally unromantic, inappropriate and funny.

Which brings me to small Australian birds. Such a wealth! Yesterday I held in my hands a Spotted Pardalote because he trapped himself inside. Oh what an exquisite little bird is that. At the birdbath these days, we have both the striped and the spotted pardalotes, about five different species of honey eaters, a golden robin and white-capped (red-breasted) robin, blue wrens, mistletoe birds, red-browed finches, tiny striated thornbills, and fantails. Oh my heart, it bursts.

We have our own names for them: thornbills are ‘pebbles’, we call the New England Honey eater  ‘Sunday dresser’ because he looks like he’s got an evening coat on, and we call the grey fantail ‘cheeky shit’ because when he gets caught inside and we catch him to set him free, he doesn’t fly off in a panic like the others, he flies just out of reach and turns around and scolds us! He even has a little mark on his brow that makes him look as of he is frowning.

just a heartbeat
cloaked in feathers
a handful of pardalote

not exactly
an elegant landing
fledgling wren

quick scribbles
of flight
the hunting fantail

from the lamb’s ears
a beak full of fuzz
mistletoe bird

just beyond the pane
the spread wings of a fantail
picking spiders

in the busy bush
a sudden silence
— goshawk



(‘Lamb’s ears’ is a plant with grey fluffy leaves)

black feathers

Cara was blind. She couldn’t see grain on the ground and would sometimes roost on a stone in the middle of the flat. But she must have had some sight, because she could get in the dog’s door and would wander into the kitchen, making that ‘Brrk, brrk,’ sound that hens make for greeting.

a shuffle
of black feathers
then a cackle
and there’s a warm brown egg
in the washing basket

(tanka published in Bright Stars, Volume 2)