Judith Skillman
The Dodo Bird

 with lines from Holderlin

I found it land-bound, small wings tucked
against its sides.  The head naked,
almost human in its appraisal.
I remember hearing about you, I said
and it replied For the gods grow indignant...

It was not repulsive, rather oily, a few black strands
like leftover feathers sprouting from its head.
I thought you were a figment I said,
and it replied if a man not gather himself to save His soul...

I said I was a woman, that I would have preferred
to lose the ostrich, but would not starve my children.
If there had been a famine and the opportunity arose
I also would have beaten the Dodo to death
with whatever was at hand—
club, baseball bat, plank of wood,
but I wouldn't have laughed.

Women are tame.
We don't kill unless threatened.  
Did you not perceive the Dutchmen as a threat?
Yet he has no choice...
the bird replied, foraging, head down,
diamond eyes shrunken to slits
as it pried grubs from mud.

Why have you grown so large—
three feet tall, walking about
as if you owned the ground
between clouds of idealism and germs of reality.  
You had your heyday.
We have your beak in the British Museum
for proof: DNA, some writings and renderings.

It went about the business of the omnivorous—
scavenging, turning its arse this way and that,
always the silly walk of it
and the precious non-birdness of its serious demeanor,
unshaken by extinction: like-
wise; mourning is in error...

"Dodo" ~ painting by Ella Guru