Swamp Parliament

Swamp Parliament by Lyndal Cairns

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

they’re off!


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