a Tui in the rain

your black body lands on the green

sunlight strikes
and you flash emerald, turquoise and bronze
white-ruffed like an Elizabethan prince
outrageous elegance in this suburban garden

you pluck a purple berry from the Māhoe tree

I imagine …
you keep a ball of soot and sap tucked under your wing
and on rainy days like these you bring it out
spit berry juice over it and knead it into paste with one clawed foot
ready to make your mark

if I held my hand still
would you slip your beak into my skin
and ink your name, engrave a permanence
a sign of allegiance for the nights when you are hidden in the trees

I imagine …
writing a sonnet to your dark beauty
while I compose, you shriek and chortle
you fill your belly with violet pearls
your white bib staining amethyst
before taking wing to sing oblivious in the secret wood



In relation to the previous poem “black diving”:

For anyone who does not know – and there may be many of you outside New Zealand – a tui is a bird about the size of a pigeon. On the day of this poem, from a short distance, the tui I saw stood out black against the mist.

But their beautiful dark glossy plumage, shines in the right light with the colours of a paua shell, greens, blues, and purple. White tufts at the throat, and white wisps around the neck.

They live in the bush reserve near my house, swooping and diving among the trees. They call invisibly among the branches, warbling and squawking and trilling.

Some have learnt to imitate sounds they hear in their environment, and can make calls like phones ringing, or kettles whistling, and occasionally even people.

IMG_0980 copy© Claire Griffin 2016

black diving

hills disappear
mist swifts down
past houses
a moving whitewash
flattening colour
wind made visible
thickening, deepening
cloud come low to ground
all is white – the hill is memory now
near my window – trees still present – green intense against the white
tui settles on tree fern branch – holds on determined in the wind
head turns
attention shifts
beak leads
wings follow

(not a cento – all me – © Claire Griffin 2016)