an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

Poems by Ila Selwyn

kākāpō, the Codfish Island king

Ila Selwyn

Published on
page 36 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

our plump owl-parrot peers from the picture
implores me with big round sad eyes
short scaly legs, huge feet, massive toes stick out
beneath a rotund Tweedledum body, dressed
in elegant plumage of yellow and green tweed

side-burns with whiskers to feel its way in the dark
surround a disc, house a prominent grey beak of a nose
to snuffle out food, become a third foot, assist in climbs
to the top of tall trees at night, seeking seeds and fruits
short wings on this heavy body not designed for take-off

parachute free-falls, balance a bounding pigeon-toed gate
out-paced by predators lured by its musty-sweet odour
moved to safe sea islands, still threatened by in-breeding
Aspergillus, a fungus, that kills a healthy bird in a few days
and crusty bum, bogging up its one-hole orifice

aroused, he builds a bowl, sits in it, booms for up to four months
a deep resonant sound, a heartbeat felt in the bones, travelling
vast distances, alternates his call with a high-pitched ching ching
one male so horny after a five year wait, makes do with a man’s
hairy head, flaps his wings, draws blood, as he frantically bounces

he’s the bad guy in this story, leaves his mate to do the rearing
her one or two eggs, sometimes crushed by his plodding feet
all day I watch videos of the clownish kākāpō submit to indignities
to clear its hole, hold no grudge, and fall in love with the fat fellow
wonder if they’d accept an 82-year-old volunteer on Whenua Hou