14

Metamorphosis

The young magpie, as large as either parent,
Piteously pleads the pathos of his need.
With drooping feathers, outstretched neck, shrill voice
Vibrant with suffering he proclaims, ‘I’m starving.’

Mother is easy meat. It’s only nature.
He’s needed her since first he broke the egg.
Anxious, alert, dreading inadequacy
She leaves her breakfast of half-shredded worm
And pokes the remnants down his gaping throat.
He bounces back for more.

Father is cooler:
Detached, he lends a hand, deprecates fussing,
Passes a grub, then distances himself.
Though at that age he fed himself (he had to)
Seasons do change: he’d hate to see the lad
Feel disadvantaged, with more favoured mates
Fed by their elders…

It seems the cyclic pattern
Need never end. But at some inner signal
Or cosmic clock, both parents with one swoop
Take off and disappear beyond the hill.
Momentarily the tragic mendicant
Crouches, stunned, beak open. Then occurs
A miracle of metamorphosis:
Claws grip, legs straighten, head is lifted, feathers
No longer drooping sleek themselves for action.
Erect he stands. Now he is his own bird.
Now piercing eye, proud mien, commanding beak
Give notice to the world: he is a magpie.

Approaching choughs and lowries alter course,
Frivolous insects flutter in vain escape,
While far below, grubs in their clammy tunnels
Tremble to sense a new relentless blade.