Photo By Jools Thatcher

Photo By Jools Thatcher

The theme for this week’s JVG Radio Method poem is “Night Birds”

Ed Bates once again performing the guitar duties this week

Play this poem directly in your browser! Just click the “play” button below:

A track from the “Drifter” album

Night birds

In the uphills of South Gippsland, in gullies, dense and steep
Impenetrable to all but that which shelter’s in its keep

From its remnant forests, its mysteries veiled from sight
Comes the legend of a bird that only ventures out at night

No parrot, owl or raptor and flightless, it is said
A diet like no other bird – Copper, Iron and Lead

The first recorded sighting – by whites, at any rate
Was when the Toora Tin Mine opened in 1888

Tent pegs disappeared; chisels, knives and picks
Initially the miners thought their mates were playing tricks

Then nightly, after dark, they observed a frightful din
As the birds picked through the tailings, extracting specks of tin

The miners feared those avians, though none had proved a threat
They’d sooner soil their duds than leave their tents once sun had set

Fear soon turned to loathing and talk of genocide
Nails were scattered through the bush, laced with cyanide

The birds devoured them eagerly, a fate they weren’t deserving
To reappear the following night to seek a second serving

A prospector, named Shelley, was found dead beside his swag
Every scrap of metal had been plundered from his bag

The eyelets from his boots, tacks pulled from the soles
His Billy Can, not two weeks old, peppered full of holes

The buttons from his fly and the fillings from his teeth
His belt buckle burgled by this callous, feathered, thief

“Robber turned killer” the men were heard to howl
They swore their revenge on this ferrous eating fowl

But Shelley choked to death claimed the autopsy report
He was eating a Koala when a knuckle bone got caught

But the miners had their own view and their message was succinct
Plug everything that moves until the bastard is extinct

They shot anything with wings, from lorrikeats to pullets
While their target stayed well hidden, feasting quietly on the bullets

The owners of the mine were alarmed at the dissension
Productivity could suffer and drew too much attention

Investors, always nervous, and concerned they’d lose their backing
They forbade the bird be mentioned, on the threat of instant sacking

With jobs as rare as hen’s teeth, workers spoke of it no more
Eventually the mine closed down around the First World War

The bird was lost to memory as the mine was lost to scrub
Reduced to drunken yarns met with laughter at the pub

Still, theft remained a problem for the cockys in the shire
Strangely, always metal, from bolts to fencing wire

Gate chains, hinges, horse shoes – which left the farmers fuming
Most put it down to looters with the price of scrap iron booming

Then, a bootlegger named Haydon, trying to relocate his still
Slipped and took a tumble down a densely wooded hill

In luck, his fall was broken by a leafy, spongy, mound
“Lyrebirds” he thought, not knowing what he’d found

Suddenly, two birds, both near a metre high
Fled into the bush, it was clear they could not fly

Startled from their mound, they’d no time to conceal
Two massive metal eggs that shone like stainless steel

He fetched his partner, Pamela, and led her to the nest
An amateur ornithologist, she relished in the quest

They stood before those glistening orbs, too stunned to say a word
That gentle, timid, creature they named “The Bocce Bird”

They chose to keep its secret – what else could they do?
Have hordes of tourists poking round near their illicit brew?

But they shared it with the locals, who got into a flap
Now you’ll notice every farm has a pile of metal scrap

Car wrecks, barbed wire, roofing iron – it’s not coincidence
Food, left for the Bocce Bird, in the hope they’ll spare the fence

What other creatures, real or myth, are lurking in the bush?
Fed by fear and fantasy and the imaginings they push

Prisoner’s of legend, they remain, till freed by proof
Like a politician’s promise, as elusive as the truth

© Copyright 2010 Ian Bland

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