• Alison Thompson




     i.       Extinct


These birds have only parchment wings now       

           deft and delicate strokes painted by a man

with an eye for detail                  a precise individual        

           delighting in minutiae


A man who marvels at the complexity of each feather     

           the fragile shivery quality of each separate barb               

at how the tiny iridescent shards of colour                stitch in the light

           and make the whole wing shine


How gravely he holds the still warm corpse

           turning it from hand to hand, extending each wing

examining the underside,               the belly             

           the curled feet, the flaccid neck


      How gently he places it on the bench             

           to tag, weigh, measure — recording

each detail             in his leather-bound book                  


           before he turns aside

with an emotion he might, if pressed, have called reverence

           and sets to work with pen and brush                    

omitting                   the smudge of crimson

           on the pale breast feathers


omitting the fall of the bird to the ground

           that very morning 

when Thomas                    (his shooter)   

           had dropped it with a single shot. 


     ii.        Pest


This morning it all seems very English in my garden                 

what with the overcast sky, the chickens

on the back lawn and the fox               who stared straight at me

through the window as I rose half-asleep              to see what had set the chickens off


And I, colonial to my bones, forgot he was vermin

feral, noxious — fated to be culled, 

forgot he was anything other                   than a villain of fairy-tales

and held my dog’s collar               as I held his gaze



He stood assured, not even hungry,

just checking things out, never doubting his right to belong —           

to take what is offered to him                    willing to adapt

Remembering the chickens,                     I let the dog go      


    but the fox was long gone, loping lazily

up the hill to his home among eucalypt and lantana           

yet another new arrival                 that has made its place here          

without asking                    without shame


And of the three of us — fox, lantana, European       

I wonder who least understands this land   

who has rendered               the most harm                

    who most deserves                     the poison




Legacy won the Dangerously Poetic Press Byron Bay Festival Writers Poetry Prize in 2011 and was published in the anthology Wild Honey (Publisher Dangerously Poetic Press).