Sunday, 29 April 2012

Black and White Birds

Magpie, mudlark, currawong
Wake her with their garrulous warbling song
As sunlight through the branches illuminates the dawn,
They boldly sing their joyful praise to greet another morn.
She sees them, from the hillside to the valley floor in flight
And spies them in the eucalypts, tiny specks of black and white,
For they are black as darkest coal, black as the midnight sky
And they are whiter than a cloud, or snowflakes drifting by

Magpie, mudlark, currawong,
If life was ever true, ‘twas never long.

Black days she knew, as if the sun forgot to shine
For night loosed fallen angels, evil their design,
When vengeance smote the heart of man and man to hate inclined
And painted strokes of black upon his body, soul and mind.

White days she knew, soft as the wing of a dove,
White as a bridal veil o'er the white-hot heart of love,
Bright days, the river flowing full and slowly by,
Hazy, dappled picnic-days, never wont to die.

Dark and light days, each a part
Of the stirring chords that fill her loving heart.

Magpie, mudlark, currawong are ever there,
Coldest black and cleanest white in the cool, clear morning air,
Distinct to all and yet with all around they harmonise
Lifting their wings and soaring, singing to the skies.

copyright Josephine Collett 2000.
This poem was written when I was recuperating from cancer surgery. It was inspired by two things - the detail of magpies flying through the trees in a print by Streeton which hung on my study wall at the time, "Still Glides the Stream and Shall Forever Glide" (a title which in itself comes from a Wordsworth poem); and an amusing black and white mudlark (peewee) which was wont to attack it's own reflection in my bedroom window. Women in particular are often critical of their own bodies and in a sense attack themselves. There's nothing like cancer to make you question the priorities we place on body image as opposed to what lies within. 
This poem was originally printed in GYCAN magazine, published by the Gynaecological Cancer Society of Queensland following a creative workshop addressing experiences of cancer.

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