To feed head-down in an aerial smother of honey and pollen
reassured by a rainbow chatter of siblings
changing tree on impulse
in case python or man is stalking,
reckless till then . . .
A frantic pillaging crew,
crimson-patched pirates screeching in plunder-frenzy,
ignoring the silver-eyes nervously feeding
under those orange scimitars of beak.
The first dozen leave in a second, headlong, a rapid
scatter of downward notes; greedy last tilts his head
and is traumatised by a blank grey-green
widowed of reds and orange.
Before long they’ll circle back.
Shrieks of “Saps up”, “Feed here!”,
churrs of “All’s well, Honey flows”,
screech of “Hawk’s shadow! Watch out!”
mute to the mating thrum
Their world is millions of honey-dripping pores.
Free as a child with a million breasts to suckle,
the world’s glands, daytime and night,
at work making sweets for them.
“Comic book bandidos”, but equally
rainbow-motley clowns; with their walk-claws
they tread-cling, wading and stumbling
up loose sprays of blossom
as a lily-trotter walks floating weeds.
They clutch-bunch and jostle on rafts of leaf
buoyed there by bough-spring, then flare out
over forests where the tenth tree in rotation
is an oasis of dripping pompoms.
Their brush-tongues delving and combing
bully honey from bottle-brush florets
or bite them off short,
munching sweet mash.
This desert of unfruiting trees,
deluding the settlers with woody semblances,
is their land of nectar and pollen-bread, antipodean
paradise, where raucous workers thrive.
A good tree gives gallons a day
— but modestly, from flowers as dull as grasses,
pale cream or off-white, blanched foliage.
Birds themselves must play petal;
their stridulous yellows and blues and orange and red
flag out each tree of delights, proclaim the loud shrines
of fermenting, honeyed, winey abundance.
It is said the birds came from dinosaurs.