11 February 2007

cattle egrets

the bird sits calmly on the cow's high back
removing parasites if that's the word
the farmer's friend when poor farmers lack
the dips and sprays the wealthier preferred
to kill the ticks and aid the healthy herd
avian paradox that sits out in plain sight
the elegant egret most useful tick-bird
that comes from africa and yet is white

above us the high winds turn clouds to wrack
something like that we think must have occurred
the winds grabbed the birds up in their sack
and with a speed that should have blurred
the sight as somewhere we've referred
hurled these poor flyers westward in the night
new migrant status on each wing conferred
that comes from africa and yet is white

hard working mountain peasant in his shack
to wealthier men's opinions that deferred
now learns that these big fellows have the knack
to eat large vermin and are not deterred
by sight or sound or by restraining word
from relieving cattle in their itchy plight
the farmer will not have this helper slurred
that comes from africa and yet is white

prince in this opinion all men have concurred
that nature in her wisdom has the right
to send our farmers the companion bird
that comes from africa and yet is white


Epacris said...


Once as I travelled through a quiet evening,
I saw a pool, jet-black and mirror-still.
Beyond, the slender paperbarks stood crowding;
each on its own white image looked its fill,
and nothing moved but thirty egrets wading -
thirty egrets in a quiet evening.

Once in a lifetime, lovely past believing,
your lucky eyes may light on such a pool.
As though for many years I had been waiting,
I watched in silence, till my heart was full
of clear dark water, and white trees unmoving,
and, whiter yet, those thirty egrets wading.


by Judith Wright, from Birds (1962)

FSJL said...

That's a truly lovely poem. Thank you.