Ten Poems About Dinosaurs and Their Relatives – Illustrated
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A hatchling born in a footprint –
How did the sauropod place the egg,
from such a height ? ~ we do not know.
A hatchling fed –
their heads not that different, but their bodies so disparate in scale;
the hatchling cannot walk the length of its mother in one go.
How did such a bulk not crush her brood? ~ we do not know.
Bigger and bigger the hatchling grows –
Many seasons protected in the center of the herd –
Predators can prey while their size permits –
How many survive their first ten years? ~ we do not know.
Reaching maturity, 10, 30, 40 years?
Migrations to nesting grounds, layer on eggshell layer; millennia,
and now to breed, broken bones by default – really, how when that big? ~ we do not know.
Very old now, 120, 130, 150 – Alone at her own pace, the hatchling has done well –
Nothing will touch her until she falls; only on last breath scavengers fell to.
From the bones, now rock, we know.
My claws are fight –
They chirp in the air –
Held on a fine trigger.
I have feathers, but cannot fly –
They help me steer at speed,
Or shade my head when fishing,
Or show off to the girls, bright red.
Near the end of a hunt,
I roll on my back, under the prey.
A fury of kicks deguts, in a spray –
Warm food hits the soil.
Binocular sight –
Allows me focus on a magnolia flower –
It falls apart at my breath.
Crests produce a wave,
of sound, a boom,
that carries far across the forest.
Always in a herd.
Young and old centre ~
Big males front, rear and flanks.
Hoots first from the juves,
at the smell of the Dark Ones; we are still being stalked.
But they stay away, today.
At water’s edge, we grind our weeds on batteries of teeth,
ducks pass by, our kin,
our ‘bills’ of a different Order.
There are many of us now,
There have been millions of us before,
We’ll go on forever…
Nothing flies higher than me,
but I land to fight, breed and feed.
Walking on wings.
The longest little finger,
forms the forward edge,
which folds nicely, by my flank.
Taking off is fun,
we fling ourselves full at the sky ~
for as long as age allows.
Once up, I might fly for days ~
Covering ground, guided by
fine filaments, that feel for thermals.
Great clouds, of light dust ~
Far below, the herds are moving.
They look so small, from this height.
In heavy armour,
in this heat, by the waterhole,
I sit, under attack.
Noise about me,
Claws clipping, to no effect,
One of them has just lost a tooth.
I grow tired, of this nonsense,
A swing of my tail, buckles one of them,
Excruciating pain, limping, gangrene, death for him, in time.
The others get the message,
I am not worth it.
Anyway, I’m thirsty, and getting cranky.
So I go mad,
And now they know they have really f*cked up.
And so run away while the getting is good.
I slake my thirst,
In relative security,
My armour feels so light.
looking for the hoist,
a weaker ball and socket
joint in the neck ~
with the violence,
the shaking and wrestling ~
blood is spattered,
on our crests
and stings the eye.
A hiatus ~ a breath caught.
Dig in, no quarter ~
this takes up the day,
back and forth,
an equal match…
A left leg slips,
a slight weakness,
and now The Move:
under the jaw.
The days lengthen,
In the morning, I align
My plates, full with blood,
to take in the Sun.
Side on to the light,
The heat circulates into me,
and my two brains go to work:
Food -food – food, is all we want.
The heat rises now.
I look huge side on, but from the front I’m slim.
So I face into the Sun, and the zephyrs carry away the heat I don’t need.
The blood in my plates, cooled midday.
Should anything get between my two brains
and our food – food – food,
It gets the spikes.
If my bright red plates are not warning enough.
I get the last rays, broadside,
Filling up for the night.
Today’s food gurgles away, Sun fueled furnace.
My little winged attendants,
are clearing me of leeches, and gum grubs.
I sit patiently, while they reach,
where my small arms cannot.
Tired of all this attention,
I arise, using these small hands as levers,
a flick of my massive head, allows gravity to restore,
my true countenance.
I survey all before me,
deciding a course, by smell and by sight,
I amble forward,
Waiting in the woods,
Some prey is passing,
I burst forward, and bring one down,
by colossal force; it dies, mainly from shock.
Satiated, I might recline for a few suns,
Tiny spiders, falling from the trees, tickle me.
I’m by a hard rock, languid, and listening to the evensong of my kin;
but I have a short temper: I am Rex, no songs for me: hear me roar.
By a bank, corals,
bryozoans, fish ~ all know –
that I have just fed.
buoyed by warm waters ~ little
‘scapes these teeth, this head.
I will swim the length
and breadth of this shallow sea,
before I am dead.
When I leave this realm,
I might be preserved ~ by chance;
Asleep, in a bed.
(Buteo buteo, Common Buzzard)
She governs this world –
I don’t think of words, or Her –
as I hover ~
at the edge of brilliance –
in constant symmetry.
In the green –
something moves, my time to dive –
stable in space,
a graceful descent;
It has no chance.
Feathers cover me –
Triple function: warmth, flight, display.
But my claws betray my past –
and those eyes, black as the old gods.
Rejoice! We never left.
[Inspired by ‘The Dinosaurs’, Stout, Service & Preiss, 1981].
Words © Duncan Cleary 2011.
Pictures © Duncan Cleary 2012. Indian Ink on handmade Latvian paper, photographed in natural light with iPhone 4.