The Birds

The first visitors were struck silent
by the utter abandon of this land.
The forest and the calls of the birds
descended like unanchored bells
to the very shore.
An ancient, sonorous veil,
washed by the gray dreams
of the clouds,
covered this un-spoilt archipelago.

And how they sang,
from the low hum
of the dark moa,
the shrieks of the flightless parrots,
up through the canopy
to the impossible song
of the bell bird, the fragile tui,
the land seemed born in music.

Here the forest was
the wisest monarch,
here her kingdom of birds flourished ,
gilded, pampered,
here the dark, gray ocean,
for centuries,
flung back the continents,
and the land grew folds of peace.

The kakapo, the weka,
stained by the deep green of the sheltering ferns,
shed their wings,
grew indolent and irascible,
larked and spun madrigals
on the forest floor, dissipated courtiers.
The wood pigeon fattened itself
on the dark berries
of enormous totaras,
where silent wetas
oozed their eons of sediment,
clinging to thick trunks.

The land lay open,
a ripened lime, beyond any grasp,
and the birds ran riot,
abandoned feverish toil,
precautions against invasion,
sung recklessly
through the numberless centuries.

Only the ancient tuatara,
perched still on the rocks,
watched as the polar storms
approached but never arrived.
And sometimes
a great albatross,
exhausted by the slipstream,
alighted on the unguarded coast,
leading the new comers
who had followed him for days,
their prow like a harpoon,
their starved hope plunged like a hook
into his wake.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

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