Of Small Birds

I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven. (Emily Dickinson)


These are not the flying dinosaurs

that sculpt the skies with raptor power

decking shields, coins, architraves


nor the dark corvids sly as humans

that place nuts on tramlines or zebra crossings

for safe and automatic cracking


split small birds’ heads at the bat of a wing

croak abysmally throughout the deserts

of suburbia, the killing fields of abattoirs


squat on Odin’s regal shoulders

squawking their self-important dualities

of memory and prophecy.


These are the smaller mysteries

nesting on your palm light as breath

a red-browed firetail, fawn-fallow feathers


smooth-fluffed into grey striations subtly

shading each into each this miracle

thought in the mind of God


its clouding eye now leaking life that crossed

that passing car on Birchwood Drive.

Or the two hopping fairy blue wrens


on your morning patio alternating

the currents of their hardwired twitch

and bounce between watchful tree


and sandstock bricks seething

with edible minutiae invisible

to your median eye. As the female pecks


the male amps up his alpha

in scales of butterfly blue.

These love the low prickly shelter


of miner-  and corvid-free rosemary,

blackberry, grevillea, wild roses,

so just add a bowl of fresh water


mulch the cat and presto

you’ve got them for free

along with the odd attendant fly catcher


hoovering up the bugs the wrens have raised.

Thornbills and white-eyes

like it higher up; their electronic twitters


flock the canopies they fine-comb for eucalypt lice

while the eastern spinebill zooms down

to leave me breathless with the rarity


of its visits, the jewelled head

and infinite arc of that tiny beak

sucking sweetness from the sage


its red tubular bells

bent silent

in the sun.


[first published in Island magazine, Hobart, Australia, 2009]


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on November 5, 2009.

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