Dimitra Harvey / Poetry

Calyptorhynchus funereus (Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos)

Your plumes are as black as the dresses and jackets
we wear at the edges of burial plots. I’ve read stories
of the storms you portend; how you are a cipher

to an inch of rain. For weeks, I’ve watched you plane
the sky’s bayberry vellum, seen falling light transpose your silhouettes
into a straight-cut script I’ve tried to sound out –

a susurrus of fricatives spattered
with quick cool vowels. And when you’ve tacked low
above the house, I’ve studied your lean, cleaver-knife

tails; how each wingbeat scores broad arches in the wind
with the measured pace of pallbearers. Now, as the sun decants
its port dregs, your squeals ricochet from tumbled

bloodwood trunk, shed wall. Tomorrow,
squalls in the north will blast
down burry clouds. You’ll slow-sail in, moor

to the needled limbs of the pine in the yard. You’ll flex
your crests at the gum-scented westerlies, and unpick
cones for their seeds with your feet, your bills. When you

flutter out your wing I’ll learn that the ridge of its underside
is a craquelure of lemon. The yellow thumbed on
behind each of your polished eyes will flash like roman sun

medallions. I’ll read stories of high summer and drought,
of roots cracking with thirst, flowers opening dry buds
to the deluge. But tonight, after your bodies dissolve against

horizons seeping all the reds of pomegranate seeds, I’ll stand
and listen to the ticking of night beetles – my tongue smarting
with the honeyed-metal piquancy of rain.

© Dimitra Harvey

“Calyptorhynchus funereus” first appeared in Cordite Poetry Review’s Monthly Poem Feature, August 2014.

A painting by George Raper (1769-1797) Watercolour, 1789 from The Natural History Museum, London.

A painting by George Raper (1769-1797) Watercolour, 1789 from The Natural History Museum, London.

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