Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Bowerbird

In the spring, the bowerbird gathers leaves and flowers.
We suppose, being male, he doesn’t have a nest in mind.
He brings a certain rock or mushroom in his beak,
found or stolen from another bowerbird nearby,
and lays in pattern all those elements of art --
color, texture, line -- to entice her eye.

And once she comes, he sings and
dances while she watches.
She may return.
They may mate.
Then she moves on alone to
build a nest, the bower abandoned,
in the forest or the field, a singular work:
he tidies up; he preens for the next female.

We marvel at these elaborate patterns here,
for what if the artful bower just does not appeal?
What if she doesn’t come, drawn by some strange mix
of biologic chemistry and art made by birdy eye and birdy beak?
Even in the deepest forest, art is created, unknown to human eye.
We make our nests, and sing and dance,
And believe all is left to chance.

April begins National Poetry Month where some writers commit to writing a poem a day (see NaPoWriMo). I may not post every day, but I will be writing a poem a day and sharing some.

National Geographic had an article by Virginia Morrell on bowerbirds last year. The images of their precisely arranged "bowers" are fascinating. These are not nests. The male bowerbirds of New Zealand and Australia make them to attract the females for mating. The bowers are just lovely, intricate, a mix of materials. One photograph from the article shows a bowerbird painting sticks in his "nest" with "paint" the bird actually made himself. Sorry the line breaks don't come out properly here; I wanted the shape of the poem to be like a bower . . .

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