acing uphill on a morning that has just shaken
off the dew, the lyrebird co-opts gravity
as she backheels a storm into the scrub flotsam.
She stumbles on and voices a chainsaw lodged deep
in her gorge in the same motion. She engineers
a compost from the leaves, twigs and banksia cones,
the chrysalides and shed skins, sifting and shifting it,
mounding it, gouging out catacombs and sanctuaries
for snakes and lower-slung vertebrates. Only wildfire
rivals her in upheaval, a dozen skips’ worth
per year, yet fire breeds more cold-bloodedly
where her husbandry has not prevailed.
While the galahs and Major Mitchells flock
to sanctuary, at the fire-front, the perching
opportunism of black kites and brown falcons
has vision only for the single-minded flurry
of insects, lizards and small mammals under the whip
of flame. Should their appetites surmount this bounty,
the hawks may pilfer an ember and freight
it to a more distant part of the savanna where they
will stoke another oven in the grasslands. The science
journals are only now the equals of the lore-men.
Note: Boronia granitica is an endangered wildflower shrub native to Australia; all of the animal species noted in this poem are indigenous to the same areas as this plant, and are already extinct or endangered. This poem was first published in the light…