Wednesday, 11 January 2017

A Poem A Day 5.

Neochmia temporalis / Elegy

Red-browed Finch.  11-12 cm
Highly sociable, in close-knit flocks; forages on the ground, but occasionally perching on grass stems to reach seed heads.  When flushed, the flock departs with slightly undulating flight.

8g, on my kitchen scales. Length: 11cm.  From beak to tail, the length of my palm. though the Field Guide to Australian Birds gives no indication of the downy softness of your feathers, or the tiny miracle of your frame. Too fragile for trees reflected in sliding doors, your last flight ending with a thump on my verandah, your undulating flock whirring away without you.  Your tiny feet clawed as if to grasp a rescuing branch, or stem of grass.  Your lightness such, it should have bent and swayed, catching you with buoyant ease.

Red eyebrow line of the female tapers to a long, fine point at the nape, unlike the male’s broad, square-cut brow. 

She rests in my hand, delicate, unmarked except for her native splash of crimson set against soft grey and olive green.  I wonder her age.  Has she a mate? What tribal ties severed when she fell from flock, flight extinguished?

Voice:  extremely high, almost inaudible, a drawn out squeak, ‘tsee’ and ‘tseet’; in alarm a more abrupt ‘tchip’.

Does the flock ‘tchip’ with alarm, and swirl with fright, when trees are just a trick of light?  Will ‘tsee’and ‘tseet’ at nesting time be tinged with loss, unsettled, tonight?

Hab:  undergrowth of forests; favours grassy clearings, coastal scrubs and heaths, mangroves, canefields.  Status: sedentary or locally nomadic; common.

I wonder where they will roost, this evening, and if they will return.  She rests here, on my notepad; too small for something as big as death.  She must return to the large earth, be consumed by the living soil, in microbe and worm, to move, and in other forms, to fly.

Kerry Miller - and Field Guide to Australian Birds, by Michael Morecombe.


  1. I like the structure of this, poem and factual science. Would I make the poem stanzas look more poetic with shorter boxed stanza structure?



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