Of all the ancient stares of birds,
the one that leaves me lost for words
is the magpie’s when it looks askance
while pecking at the grass and plants
in our wild garden. I watch him plucking
worms from muddy soil and chatting
in his raucous voice. I tell him not to speak,
at least not with a brimming beak,
but his shiny eye is like a laser
and birds are ancient, so much wiser,
that I step away, go backwards slowly.
I accept the magpie, although not holy,
deserves reverence from his feathered birth
until his last breath on this place called Earth.
Kim M. Russell, 15th March 2021
My response to earthweal weekly challenge: The Animal Gaze
I enjoyed Brendan’s description of black vultures on dumpsters, and his encounter with an eagle, a bird I’ve only ever seen at a zoo, and a hawk, which I have seen from a distance and on the arm of a bird handler. His essay on the animal gaze made me think about animals with which I have been in starting contests – not that many, mostly my pets and animals that visit our garden.
I love all precious encounters with animals, and I have enjoyed this week’s challenge very much, the essence of which is what animals are looking for and what are they seeing, which Brendan calls ‘the animal gaze’. He asks us to write about encounters with that gaze; what we share with it and how we differ; how we can understand it; and what it reads in us. As inspiration, he has shared one of Reiner Maria Rilke’s Eighth Duino Elegy.
I had just finished writing my poem when I heard the magpie in the garden – he must have known!
Image by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash