Home  |  Browse  |  Search  |  Introduction  |  Chronology 
   
nzepc | Holloway Press       
            Previous | Next  
OYSTERCATCHER
Sunrise, four-thirty, the very
first of this new year’s days
with no room, among boulders
or drifted woods, for both of us
who chose to walk a westering curve
of a bay which years abandoned
where I, stepping carefully barefooted
between thistles and dead
sea apples, he hobbling as
though his feet were killing him,
had gravely a beach empty of purpose
in common. When he went, he left
so great a space to salt the curves
that what civility could make good
the gap below whalers’ hills?
Ridiculous he was; except his beak,
prototypically black with nothing
to mourn, unless absence. Not important,
he comes and he goes, without doubt.
We were both birds of known passage
who should have been able to get on
but, evidently, he resented
some ill manner of my curiosity,
floundered on my inquiry, and recoursed
to flight, at which air assumed him
into unmeasured dignity. His competence
rebuked my flatfooted knowingness.
H. unicolor (or reischeki?) a book suggested
he is, the northern black oystercatcher,
who may be pied, through cross breeding.
Books, no doubt, could tell me too
much about myself although not how
to overcome my dull absurdity,
my crossgrained habits, or how to take
the air like one expending nature.
                                                                    9. 1. 68
Editor's note
Oystercatcher: first published in Southern Review 3 (1968-69), 55; the variable oystercatcher (Haematopodidae unicolour) is common around the coasts of Northland
Previous | Next