The Wedgetails

By | 1 July 2006

Order falconiformes, family accipitidae

Trees are wheeling in my dream.
Diminish to a dot down here on green,
my own face looks back up at me,
as smaller ground-hugging birds erupt –
warning shrieks from silver crowns –
choughs and currawongs harass great shapes
soaring to a higher clip above Muyan, silver wattle.
Three dots melt over Yarra Valley dazzle-pools
where a water ribbon threads low hills
with billabongs prinked with biel, the river red gum.
They climb to firestick lands,
three on their feather fingers glide
like panketye, the boomerang –
the leaf-crowns seethe on northerlys,
spring grass seas stream, the new life darts.

In high summer's dreaming light,
three eagles circle whitewashed trees.
All day without a single wing-beat,
three are balanced on the air,
silent shadows first,
their wings curve to the earth's far sides,
on whisperings, on slip-rimmed stealth.
A life-long devoted pair, with juvenile in tow
still eking tutelage:
the awkward chick will earn luxuriance,
rich cape and chestnut nape,
its bushy gaiters frothing over claws.

Aerobatic displays at breeding time,
the male stoops to check
abruptly when his mate flips on her back –
they link enamoured claws in free-fall corkscrew loops.
Then ragged mat of sticks.
A first hatchling tears
the second chick apart,
til every feather's gone:
bolts its brother's bone, beak and shell down.

Wings hinged low,
the talons lift warm softness up,
wedge-tail splayed to brake and balance.
The back-turned toes are hooked,
front-facing claws outstretched
at a hundred clicks
impale a rabbit's life.
Raptor means clasp:
dead gravity of break-neck weight
stiffens in an ice vice.

The female floating fully stretched,
dives on fold-back wings:
head slung down on turret neck,
cere yellow-streaked,
the black beak hooked.
From the slipstream-whittled torso's soft torpedo,
eyes huge for body size face forward:
binoculars, eight times keener than a swallow's,
read fine prints from two miles high.

Look! Aquila audax, the bold bird.
Quil fortuitous, writes death sentences
on pasture parched to summer parchment,
plummets down through its own shadow
in jet-black mid-day ink.

Three skirmish up through sunbursts,
are crescent moons at sundown –
on nights of white-pricked blackness
are stars thrown up between the poles
of the kunewallin, the Southern Cross,
stringless kites still tilting to the sky.

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