Poetry

Black and White

Where is birdsong a soothing summer sound?

     Not in our garden.

The pure white cockatoos, with their egg-yolk

     crests, circle around

the treetops shouting rather than calling,

in tones like that of metal grating on metal, while smoke

coils into the air. Perhaps one might pardon

such a cry from someone falling

down a cliff or off a building; but not

     from a white-winged bird.

At the same time, there are also black-winged

     crows giving out what

could be taken for an expletive

four letters long; a flock of them are harassing a ringed-

tail possum that has, in the daylight, wandered

from its nest onto a power cable – they dive

on the helpless marsupial and peck

     fiercely at its head,

until it seems their victim must soon fall

     off and break its neck.

In their murderous intent, these black, hoarse-

voiced attackers seem to the watcher to represent all

that is evil in nature, their claws blood-red

as criminal proof. Fate will take its course,

and death will follow. Yet the cockatoos,

     it seems, have other

ideas. Filling the air with their rust

     textured cry, in twos

and threes, they swoop down and come to the defence

of the possum, chasing the crows away; and thus one’s trust

in the universe might be restored. Order

returns to the treetops, and a sense

of calm. The cockatoos perch on the wire

     like a troop of guards,

and wait for the dazed ringtail to gather

     itself, and retire

to the bundle of leaves where it should sleep

until nightfall. The villains have been defeated. Other

sounds replace the cursing of those birds,

lawnmowers and chainsaws and the deep

echoing boom of traffic over the hill.

    Children returning

slam doors and drop schoolbags. Everyday

    events come to fill

each yard along the street, where humans have

no reason to notice a struggle underway

between black and white. Leaf mounds are burning.

The possum blinks. It is still alive.

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