Tears, Feathers and Bones

The Māori saw salty tears rolling

Down the beak of the Wandering Albatross,

Tears of longing for its ocean home.

The Māori saw the beauty of its feathers, white as spray,

Strong as the current, gentle as foam

And made them a symbol of peace.

The Maori saw the power of its long, tapering wings,

Perfect for graceful gliding and turning in slow motion,

Mastering wind shear and riding storms,

Unconcerned by the raging of the sea.

The Maori decorated war canoes with albatross pinions

To endow them with the bird’s dominion of the ocean.

From the wing bones, they made flutes that sang with spirits’ breath

And chisels to tattoo their skin

With the magic of albatross and wind.


© Kim M. Russell, 2016


Image found on www.wanderingalbatross.org

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Come Fly with Me–dVerse Poetics

Victoria is our host this Tuesday and she has asked us to look at feathers, perhaps writing of a bird, whether humble or glorious in its array, or maybe zeroing in on an individual feather in its detail, writing along the line of imagist poets. Can we hear feathers? Smell, taste or touch them? What do they mean in certain cultural or religious traditions such as those of Native Americans?

Victoria also gave us a poem by Emily Dickinson to rev up our imagination:

Hope is the Thing with Feathers – (314)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.


32 thoughts on “Tears, Feathers and Bones

  1. I totally misread the title as “Tears, FATHERS, and Bones” and am right off the bat expecting this to be about being molested. Let’s read on and see if I’m right.

    “The Māori saw salty tears rolling” … See here, this could be deep code about how “Ma” saw the child crying. So I’m assuming that Mom had an idea about what was going on, but didn’t, or couldn’t, do anything to protect the child.

    This is the child: “Down the beak of the Wandering Albatross” … wandering because she was so shredded early on that she couldn’t begin to be anything but a gypsy … she absolutely HAS to keep people away, or she can’t survive.

    “Tears of longing for its ocean home” … So the girl became a mermaid, creating a new home for herself that humans couldn’t get to. This is the only way she’ll be safe.

    “The Māori saw the beauty of its feathers, white as spray,” … This means that the mom saw “white” when she looked at her daughter. Purity, innocence, virginity, a spiritual girl. But she chose to see that. Underneath, because of the violation, the girl felt like a whore even before a “normal” boy ever touched her. Forget about the wedding dress ever meaning a thing to her. The whole thing’s a sham. She knows from childhood exactly what lives inside every man.

    “Strong as the current, gentle as foam” … “Current” means “the present.” There’s also “cure” and “rent” and “ENT” (ears, nose, throat) hiding inside. So the way she survives is by 1) living ONLY in the present, never looking beyond this very moment or remembering the past; this also keeps her from attaching to people and feeling nostalgic or sad about people leaving her, 2) the other part of her “cure” is only renting herself out to people, never letting anyone own her, 3) also, she lives in her senses more than her emotions … what she hears, smells, speaks/sings … also her “senses” in that she lives by the brain (trying to use, and live by, her head and never her heart). … Words like “spray” and “foam” give this a sexual layer as well.

    “And made them a symbol of peace” … sim-bowl … a bowl of pretend … her imagination … Also, maybe she smoked a lot of pot (in a “bowl,” you know). Maybe getting high became the only way she could find peace. … But then what else did “them” refer to? Well, (although you meant to refer to the Maori people [or the people inside the mother]), the closest plural noun, the antecedent, would actually be “feathers.” Feat hers. Feet hers. Overcoming obstacles/threats … and always being willing/eager/ready to move on … and use her feet to dance, maybe.

    Well, that’s probably enough for you to tolerate. I could do the other half, but I’m sure I’ve already annoyed you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful piece. Knowing this is about your mother breaks my heart. The last two lines of the poem . Beautiful poem about the Maori and their customs and the using of the bird’s bones to make flutes…why do people feel they have to analyze everything? Lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you , Toni. This is the follow-up poem to the one I wrote about Mum. It’s connected but I couldn’t post the original one because it’s been submitted to a magazine.If it’s unsuccessful, I’ll post it.


    1. I’m interested in the Maori and have friends and relationship in New Zealand. Have you ever seen the film ‘Whale Rider’? It gives a wonderful insight into the Maori culture.


  3. I saw that film “Whale Rider”…a wonderful story. I love how the Maori…like many Native people around the world find a purpose for much of the animals that they use to survive. I admire this quality. It’s a beautiful poem and the Albatross is an amazing bird, Kim.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh I adore this for many reasons — but most especially, right now, because I shall print it and take it with on our November Australia and New Zealand cruises. We shall visit a Maori cultural place on a shore excursion — we’re in Provincetown right now and I don’t have access to our cruise info — and I’ve been meaning to read more about this culture. I’ve only heard reference to albatross as in “it’s an albatross around her neck” — so this is very interesting as well as written so beautifully! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thanks Lillian! I am delighted that you like my poem. You’re very lucky to be visiting the Antipodes. I have friends and relations in both Australia and New Zealand but will never visit them there. You’re definitely in for a treat!

      Liked by 1 person

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