Although the aepyornis
Or roc that lived in Madagascar, and
The moa are extinct,
The camel-sparrow, linked
With them in size the large sparrow
Xenophon saw walking by a stream was and is
A symbol of justice.
This bird watches his chicks with
A maternal concentration-and he’s
Been mothering the eggs
At night six weeks his legs
Their only weapon of defense.
He is swifter than a horse; he has a foot hard
As a hoof; the leopard
Is not more suspicious. How
Could he, prized for plumes and eggs and young
Used even as a riding-beast, respect men
Hiding actor-like in ostrich skins, with the right hand
Making the neck move as if alive
And from a bag the left hand strewing grain, that ostriches
Might be decoyed and killed! Yes, this is he
Whose plume was anciently
The plume of justice; he
Whose comic duckling head on its
Great neck revolves with compass-needle nervousness
When he stands guard,
In S-like foragings as he is
Preening the down on his leaden-skinned back.
The egg piously shown
As Leda’s very own
From which Castor and Pollux hatched,
Was an ostrich-egg. And what could have been more fit
For the Chinese lawn it
Grazed on as a gift to an
Emperor who admired strange birds, than this
One, who builds his mud-made
Nest in dust yet will wade
In lake or sea till only the head shows.
. . . . . . .
Six hundred ostrich-brains served
At one banquet, the ostrich-plume-tipped tent
And desert spear, jewel-
Gorgeous ugly egg-shell
Goblets, eight pairs of ostriches
In harness, dramatize a meaning
Always missed by the externalist.
The power of the visible
Is the invisible; as even where
No tree of freedom grows,
So-called brute courage knows.
Heroism is exhausting, yet
It contradicts a greed that did not wisely spare
The harmless solitaire
Or great auk in its grandeur;
Unsolicitude having swallowed up
All giant birds but an alert gargantuan
Little-winged, magnificently speedy running-bird.
This one remaining rebel
Is the sparrow-camel.