Issue 3

David Wheatley
Three Poems

Bittern Étude

I know you are there
       the eyes of the hide
unclip open
                              you are walking
       out of sight
                 in microtones
and diminished octaves

                 the wind is singing
       and the tune is beyond me

the path from your nest
       to the water forms
                 a twelve-tone sequence
only you follow
       the splayed feet going
chromatically there
       there and there

       your splash
untuning the far thud
       of rush hour to natural static
                 this is not music
       this is what
will have been music
after              wait
       and it does not come

one call away
                 who do not call
       not yet
       subtlest most hidden
       long neck scything
                 what escapes you
by reedbed isthmus or lake

stationed over
                 the Brigid’s cross
of your nest of reeds showing
       a clutch of deep olive
where have I not       looked for you
       for the moment
       your camouflaged eye
                 breaks cover

       listened for you
spirit of the haunted milk bottle
       sunk in the centre
                 of your slow-
expanding rippling
       if only
                 but unheard

       and I clip shut the eyes
of the hide
                 stand in the dark
       and is this not blindness?
                        this is not
blindness I am
                 the last image
       on the retina
                        of a closed eye
in darkness
                 there is nothing
to hear and this
       is music

For The Night Parrot

Flyover, sleepover timezones, daylight
saved and squandered. A Norfolk pine at dusk
screaming with hundreds of rainbow lorikeets.
When landfall comes it comes on a thermal

of rain, warm rain. Zygodactylous,
I walk forwards and backwards at once,
line my casuarina, my creaking hollow,
with gum-leaves and enter tail-first.

I drink your health in mangrove and deadwood pollen
and strip the bark to cheeky, fluttering tongues.
Wattle and eucalypt leaves are also acceptable.
I will preen as I feed you, smoothing your feathers,

their lattice-work of barbules and hooks cresting
to flares of sulphurous delight and alarm.
Out of the seeds we blossom and fledge, an irruption,
the pine dispersing to fill the whole morning sky.

I have begun to speak with the voice of a bird.
Whose voice, warbling, booming, falsetto,
will I imitate if not my own? I perch
on my own shoulder and whisper into my ear.

‘Hey there!’ chatters my particular friend
the gang-gang but having got my attention
deems all further need for speech at an end;
stonewalls my polite inquiries, preferring

to dip, bob and stare straight ahead.
The more I display the more stays hidden,
visible only in UV, my coverts an open
secret by now. Which leaves the night parrot:

to be spoken of in the is/was tense, this artist’s
impression done from an artist’s impression.
Its oneway tunnels have penetrated
all the way into the earth and not come back:

a roadside carcass, 1990, first
in a hundred years and the last. One partial
ps, 2006, found headless:
Orpheus of the night parrot’s vanishing

act, the head rolling and whistling its way
to a halt in a dry river-bed; the Maenads
cheated of their triumph, keening and comfort-
less among the spinifex ever since.


My far-flung route held neither silk nor spice.
Beyond the reach of turnkeys, trackers, spies,
I swapped my chains for the jail of infinite space.
I gave my natives a blanket and bottle apiece.
Devils scream me to sleep. I sleep in peace.