The Magpie

The Magpie

A black and white figure was lying
       On its back on the side of High Park
Way, just above the office. I was
       Cycling up the hill to run a mid-
Morning errand for my wife. As I
       Cycled closer, I recognized the bird
To be a helpless and moribund Magpie.

Crows were jocundly circling, cawing
       Loudly overhead. “Who placed you in
Such a dire strait? You were surely
       Too keen to have been hit by a vehicle,”
I thought to myself as I cycled above
       The gasping figure. Black and white wings
Curling out, tips reaching as an infant
       For her mother.

That tail! A gage, jutting hin und her
       Against the asphalt. Hollow black legs,
Claw-like feet, crippled and sickly though
       Still kicking – a final thrust at the black
Taunting menace, an army of crows now holding
       In the otherwise bare figure of a Cottonwood.
Noisy malevolent demons. A self righteous lot,
       The black birds oer head.

The Magpie’s ominous stare, stark and penetrating;
       Eyes flittering dark as death itself. Tonight will
I see their piercing aspect once more, silently
       Screaming. The long black beak, slowly opening
And closing as a trout gasps while on the bank.
       A faint, grave caw heard. That noble white chest
Heaving below the coal mask.

“Should I take a photo? Was this ‘Twitter Worthy?’
       Maybe just a quick one for Facebook or Instagram?
After all, What is the purpose of the phone in my
       Breast pocket? Why, moments like this of course,”
I jabbed at myself as I climbed the hill.
       No, don’t turn around. Magpies are unique, witty,
And not without dignity.

The Magpie is loathed too, scorned by many
       In Montana as a nuisance, a provocateur –
Hard on other fowl and Flathead Cherries;
       The mischievous bird often mocked by Western
Culture as an ill beast. Why question nature?

Following the errand, I chose an alternate
       Route back to the office down Hillview. Yet,
During a noon meeting and throughout the after-
       Noon I thought of the Black and White fowl –
Black and White. Recall the wonderful days
       Of certitude? Today, headlines & photo-
Graphs directives, every read a larger tale.

“Damn your eyes,”
I cogitated – the office blind
In the direction of the enigma
Virtually shut.

Following work I felt the rawness,
       Winter’s bite. Adorning the usual
Shell, cap and gloves, up the
       Hill I reluctantly began peddling.
No clouds – the Fifth of March…
       Tonight a full moon.

I watched my breath, small dissipating mists.
       Grey pockets of old snow resting on the dirt
Adjacent to the road. There, just above, now
       Stiff and tranquil among pine cones and cinders,
Was the stoic black and white constitution of
       The Magpie. The East’s “Bird of Joy,”
No longer a bridge.

“He’s found Dickenson’s Refuge,” I reckoned,
Cycling past. Fortunate bird.


Beneath grey granite and glacial ice,
An aspect birthed a flowing turquoise hue.
Carving into the wanly environment,
As cold fluid through decaying veins,
The stream pooled below a felled alpine larch.
In the talus a sole figure sat silently
Observing Harlequins, their slate blue,
Brown and white plumage meshing with
The surrounding rustic landscape.
As the deft characters bobbed in the rapids
Along the pool’s outer edge, the trekker quietly
Voiced, ‘How is it that mountain ducks appear
So indifferent to their severe surroundings?’
Hiking out an overcast set in
Coupled with a gnawing wind; falling
Snow lightly blanketed the earth
silencing the figure’s gait.


In darkness and through a light mist
       The Whip-poor-will sounded its assiduous
appeal: ‘Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will’!
       The hymn droned softly above a somnolent
stream, still foliage, the harrowed earth.

Parroting tones a soothing balm,
       Bucolic, pastoral, no urban throng;
The cremation done, writings as well;
       The latter the will of the brood.
What are notes and letters but images,
       What application the past?

Light dies late each day;
       In the whirl all things decay.
What’s a mere depravation
       Under no moon?

‘Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will’!

Into the bracken fern deep,
       The bird’s peal gradually seeped;
Moulding to the moist bark
       Of oak, hickory and laurel.

Settling in the mind:

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