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Books & Poetry

Poems: Encounters of a birdwatcher

Books & Poetry

This week’s Poet’s Corner contributions are from dedicated birder Lorne Johnson.

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Lewin’s Rails, Sydney Park

Oblivious to dogs, joggers, traffic and concrete’s encroachment,
a pair of Lewin’s rails frenetically foraging and feeding
by a thin stormwater stream: leaves, roots and mud tossed aside;
curved bills the colour of raspberry liquorice rammed
deep into a dense sedge-rush embankment
under a tiny tornado of giddy gnats; the birds’ rufous crown
sides gleam like polished yellow tourmaline; one bird bobs
its head as if a southpaw in a title fight; I think of quails
pretending to be Mr Squiggle, or Black Rats,
dressed as aristocrats, sporting cigarette holders. Our field
guides summarise the birds with these words: skulking, shy,
elusive, rare. I have not had views like this in thirty years
of birding. There is two minutes and twenty seconds
of the pair’s actions on my iPhone: I come back to it
when I need to be taken away from humans,
left breathless.

On Encountering a Birder in Australia

I was at Bundanoon Sewage Treatment Plant,
admiring hardheads and shovelers on a Shrek-green

pool, when an older woman appeared, asked
(with wide eyes), if I was a birdwatcher. I told her I was.

Good for you, she replied, triumphantly, before
turning on her heel, retreating hurriedly into a mess

of scribbly gums… For years, I’ve told myself
that a cake must have been left in the oven.

Lorne Johnson lives in Sydney. He teaches English at the day and boarding Ascham School, established in 1886, which follows the Dalton Plan, an educational philosophy created by Helen Parkhurst in 1916. He is a Jim Jarmusch, British punk rock, American classic cars, Scandinavia and running fan, and also very much of birding and nature in general. His poetry has been published widely in Australian outlets, as well as in the chapbook Morton, about the flora and fauna of the Morton National Park, released by Pitt Street Poetry in 2016. He also edited Of Human Experience, a collection of essays on the work of poet and memoirist Peter Skrzynecki, published by Boraga Academic in 2019.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.


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