Birdwatcher's odyssey


Small wonders

Superb fairy wrens

Portly, brash, they seem
small essays in certainty;
engage nest-thieves in
'song-battles', send them packing.
Otherwise, sweet-voiced, gorgeous.

Splendid fairy wren

Head-on: monocle-
sized. His mating costume is
purple, cornflower-blue.
In eclipse: sober brown, wings
tinged with turquoise — a promise.

Lovely fairy wren

He's made a career
out of blue; now, songs to guard
young, call to confreres,
his mate ... valiant ascents
laced with fallible pauses.

Variegated fairy wrens

But for upright tail,
mauve-blue, matching his, she's plain.
With lavender breast,
hyacinth head and chestnut
epaulettes, he lives in hope.

Zebra finches

Her decor's restful,
buff, fawn-grey. He wears neck stripes,
spots, rouged ear patches —
hints of jungle, and circus.
In common: wax-red eyes, beak.


Plump, precision-built,
yet somehow subliminal —
movements faster than
thought; white-ringed, heart-of-dartboard
eyes hypnotise then vanish.

New Holland honeyeaters

inhabit, become
jasmine and rosebush, taking
just what they need; sing
floriated canons; leave
in an excitement of wings.


Faces, sun-yellow;
bodies, leaf-green; discreet beaks,
small eyes ... they're warmly,
dazzlingly, unassuming.
Outback flocks rise, block the sun.


Every feint and nuance that humans know
faced with the well-armed onslaughts of others
is present in the flight of this small gull:
a suavely parried climb becomes a slide
sideways down a wind that would douse it
in melted pewter — but for the panic-swift save
as wings cut a piece of sky, rise clear:
a jagged graph of strength reclaimed.

Now it coasts with a confidence won from
uncertainty, the wind's power its own.
This, the one bird at the estuary,
foregrounds miles of ocean when it swoops low:
capping tiered green with an abstract flourish,
scaling vertiginous whiteness.


This poem starts in a tree hole where,
caught by a cuckoo-camera, fuzzy frights
shriek their need. Eyes closed, I see thick night,
a barque with sumptuously ribboned sails.
Superlatives, a few, must be invoked —
the most soundless feathers, the sharpest hearing
(those ear-slits, points of a Bermuda triangle).
And the eyes? — mortal lamps to hang fables,
new omens on; the descending lights
of glaukopis, 'the shining-eyed one'.
Who does not long, somewhere in themselves,
for the embrace of cataclysms of softness;
to be met by that startled, eldritch gaze  
searching the furthest corners of their soul?

Wedge-tailed eagle

Then I saw for the first time over these fields —
the sky a padded ceiling, miles of light
seeping from the sun's wound — those hypnotic
swerves, a mark of dominion like all else:
its height, its eight-foot span, its primeval
             The eagle turned, an archer's bow;
became a bold emblem that could impress
the red seal on a document of war;
rip out an eye.
                      Heaped in baroque abundance,
its wings, though, were operatic — their soaring
like a voice in rapt accord with silence,
yielding itself to, and enfolded by,
light: empyrean at last.

Diane FaheyDiane Fahey's The Wing Collection: New & Selected Poems will be published by Puncher and Wattmann in 2011. Her previous collection, Sea Wall and River Light, was a winner of the ACT Government's Judith Wright Poetry Award. 

Topic tags: new australian poems, diane fahey, owl, wedge-tailed eagle, solo, wrens, finches



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Existing comments

Beautiful images. So dense with meaning; so sparse with language.'Fairy wrens ... small essays in certainty' 'Solo' is a triumph.
Anne Doyle | 03 May 2011

Must admit I groaned when I saw the topic was birds (more ***ing poetic ornithology!) but these were wonderful little poems, and I look forward to the collection.
Penelope Cottier | 04 May 2011

Les Wicks | 06 May 2011


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