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The Best Bird

by Oonah V. Joslin

In some countries they say a man’s worth
may be measured by the size of his cock.
If he’s a farmer that’ll probably doodle-do
but if he’s a taxidermist, you might be stuffed.

For a fabulist, only the lyre bird will do,
but athletes might prefer how a road-runner struts.
Gynaecologists must surely favour the stork.
The English like a robin best for the seasonal red of its winter vest.

Australians love a kookaburra. Well, they’re sanguine.
You gotta have a laugh or you’re up a gum tree, myite.
Would an operatic tenor choose a blackbird or a penguin?
And I wonder how many Tweety-pies equal a Donald duck?

Make a grid of their qualities. Taxonomise their taxonomies.
Give each bird a set of quantitative scores. Which flies
farthest, highest, is most athletic, colourful, intelligent, graceful?
Which dives deepest? Which has the best song?

Which is the tastiest? The most useful? Tick those boxes. Tick tick tick.
They can’t even mimic, says the mynah.
Call those aeroplane things ‘wings’? It’d make angels weep. May
God have mercy on your immeasurable souls.

We measure what we measure to suit our human scale,
discard, disestablish, dissemble, disassemble, dis.
Scales cover our eyes. Scales fill our minds.
Maybe birds are not the only remnants of the dinosaur.

Copyright © 2018 by Oonah V. Joslin

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