This poem was written in two parts, both in the Tropics. The idea of a ‘swamp parliament’ came to me in Kakadu National Park but the final stanza is very much located in Cairns, where the fig trees near the inner-city library are famous for their massive flying fox colonies.
The cockatoos are at war
their battle cry: a blood-curdling scream
and without provocation
A yellow mohawk squadron
smeared across the concrete sky.
Like Australian Idol judges
tropical pigeons coo a dispiriting “um-ahh”
at the flighty and indecisive starlings.
Long-legged shore birds flip mud-flat rocks
and push food around their sandy plate
afraid of ruining their figure,
while birds of paradise unfold silently
in the footpath garden.
And as day gives out
from the city’s cackling trees
come the first