Over 52 weeks I will be learning all about how to live and work creatively. My teachers are Aussie birds and animals. It is week three and the creative force has produced the Musk Lorikeet to build on the lessons that Australian birds, animals and habitat are initiating.
They talk with their beaks full of blossom
In a cascade of chatter as they sidle
Invisibly through the swaying treetops
They fly in a hurry as if all the gumnuts
Would disappear before they got to them
Musk Lorikeets have been feeding on the fruit in my yard, hurling stone fruit onto the roof of the galvanised shed that the fruit tree spreads its branches over. The ground is covered with kernels, hastily discarded as the birds flit off looking for the next treat! These joyful creatures bring brightly coloured plumage and comic antics into my world.
The Rainbow Lorikeet and Musk Lorikeet have inspired rich poetic characterisations, with poets depicting them as gangs of unruly, chattering, aerodynamic, comical bandits. Geoffrey Dutton and Mark O’Connor are just two Australian poets who personify the spirit of these free-ranging, social creatures.
Lorikeets are full of silliness and humour, and they are also inquisitive about their surroundings. They remind the writer and artist to bring colour, humour and light into their work.
Manuel Payno is a writer whose work brought as much joy as a flock of lorikeets. In the translator’s preface, Alan Fluckey describes the small riot that erupted when a ship, carrying copies of The Bandits from Rio Frio in its cargo, arrived in Mexico. Boxes were hastily opened and copies were sold within minutes as people greedily hustled to get their own personal copy. Book in hand Mexicans sat about in the open air reading to their neighbours! Rainbow chatter filled the air!
Lorikeet and Payno come whirling into my world, reminding me to remind everyone to be exuberant and add colour to their writing; to write and paint about colourful places and colourful characters! Examine the work of Payno closely! Combine this with a copy of The Donkey Inside by Ludwig Bemelmans! Your work will be enriched!
by Mark O’Connor
To feed head-down in an aerial smother of honey and pollen
reassured by a rainbow chatter of siblings
changing tree on impulse
in case python or man is stalking,
reckless till then . . .
A frantic pillaging crew,
crimson-patched pirates screeching in plunder-frenzy,
ignoring the silver-eyes nervously feeding
under those orange scimitars of beak.
The first dozen leave in a second, headlong, a rapid
scatter of downward notes; greedy last tilts his head
and is traumatised by a blank grey-green
widowed of reds and orange.
Before long they’ll circle back.
Shrieks of “Saps up”, “Feed here!”,
churrs of “All’s well, Honey flows”,
screech of “Hawk’s shadow! Watch out!”
mute to the mating thrum
Their world is millions of honey-dripping pores.
Free as a child with a million breasts to suckle,
the world’s glands, daytime and night,
at work making sweets for them.
“Comic book bandidos”, but equally
rainbow-motley clowns; with their walk-claws
they tread-cling, wading and stumbling
up loose sprays of blossom
as a lily-trotter walks floating weeds.
They clutch-bunch and jostle on rafts of leaf
buoyed there by bough-spring, then flare out
over forests where the tenth tree in rotation
is an oasis of dripping pompoms.
Their brush-tongues delving and combing
bully honey from bottle-brush florets
or bite them off short,
munching sweet mash.
This desert of unfruiting trees,
deluding the settlers with woody semblances,
is their land of nectar and pollen-bread, antipodean
paradise, where raucous workers thrive.
A good tree gives gallons a day
— but modestly, from flowers as dull as grasses,
pale cream or off-white, blanched foliage.
Birds themselves must play petal;
their stridulous yellows and blues and orange and red
flag out each tree of delights, proclaim the loud shrines
of fermenting, honeyed, winey abundance.
It is said the birds came from dinosaurs.