Thursday, October 14, 2021

Birdtober Day Fourteen: Cuckoo


There are 150 species of cuckoos in the world. I've chosen to write about two that we have here in Haiti, both of which I have seen a lot. Yes, that's right: there are TWO poems for today! Exciting, isn't it? 


I wrote about the Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo and the Smooth-billed Ani. Actually, the poem about the Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo is one I wrote last year. I'm not listing any sources for that one, because it's just about my own experience with this bird.

Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo

Photo Source: Merlin app

Bird Photography

The Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo touches down in the yard.
He struts around from here to there,
Thrusts out his long, magnificent, black tail,
Its spots of white shining in the sun,
Sidles along the garden wall
Like an actor about to go onstage,
Lifts his graceful bill and bats his red eyes.
Then he jumps onto the tree,
Hops jauntily from branch to branch,
Until he reaches the pinnacle
And flies away.

The whole time
I’m breathlessly snapping photos,
Like an eager autograph-seeker,
Trying to freeze the moment.
Click! Click! Click!

But when he flees the scene,
Headed for his next engagement,
And I look at my phone,
I’m left with images of
Concrete blocks.
In one picture, the bird’s back is somewhat visible,
If you know where to look.

Why am I disappointed?
Why do I need pictures?
To show him off?
To post on social media?
To prove to you he was there?

He left me, his most devoted fan,
A story,
A memory of a performance,
An unscheduled
And, best of all,
For me alone.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Smooth-billed Ani, Photo Source

Even though I've also seen lots of Smooth-billed Anis, we don't have them where I live, so I don't see them regularly. I did quite a bit of reading for this poem. Here are my sources: Smooth-billed Ani on Audubon, Smooth-billed Ani on Wikipedia, Smooth-billed Ani on All those sites have great photos of these unlikely-looking birds. I learned that this bird is sometimes called El Pijul. Stay tuned after the poem for a performance of a song from Mexico, and a link to an English translation of the lyrics. (It doesn't make much sense, but the fiddling and guitar playing is impressive!)

Smooth-billed Ani

A cooch of anis

From Florida to South America
The Smooth-billed Anis’ esoterica
Is widely known. Just for example
Their habitat is very ample
Because they do enjoy a clearing,
Deforestation thus appearing
To them a boon. They have blue eggs
And run around on sturdy legs.

An orphanage of anis

They live in groups, build nests together,
They’re thick of bill and black of feather,
They lay their eggs in giant stacks
(Thirty together is the max)
In layers packed with grass and leaves,
And each new chick that’s born receives
Great care from all the grown-up birds.
They cry, “Oooleeeek” in lieu of words.

A silliness of anis

In Surinam, reportedly,
Eating this bird’s believed to be
A cure for asthma. They eat ticks,
Termites, frogs, lizards, quite a mix;
Sometimes ride on a grazing beast
And on the bugs they find, they feast.
They are disheveled and fly badly,
(But better than you, so cheer them madly).

Cooch, orphanage, or silliness,
They live in groups of ten or less,
They hop about and seem quite happy
They’re cuckoos, loopy, fun, and flappy.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey


Here are the lyrics in Spanish and English.


Denise Krebs said...

Wow, you are really committed to capturing these sweet birds in October this year. I love the cuckoo poem and that his was a performance for just you. What a great reminder that we don't have to capture everything on our phones, but some are left for our hearts.

Elisabeth said...

These are wonderful Ruth! I really like these lines from the first poem:
"Why am I disappointed?
Why do I need pictures?
To show him off?
To post on social media?
To prove to you he was there?

He left me, his most devoted fan,
A story,
A memory of a performance,"

You've given voice to the modern dilemma - we are sometimes so focused on documenting an experience, that we don't give ourselves over to it.

I love the structure of the second poem with the standalone lines introducing each section - I learned so much about those birds! They sound entertaining to watch. And I love how they seem to communally care for the young.

mbhmaine said...

These are wonderful, Ruth! I especially like the reminder in your first poem that the experience of a moment is a treasure in and of itself. Your other poems are delightfully rhythmic, with great rhyming throughout. Thanks for the bird intros!

Linda B said...

I can see the feeder out my window as I sit at the computer, Ruth, but never get a picture of the lovely birds who visit. Your first poem touched me, letting me know that it's okay, I have the memory! I love the jumping & jiving of the second & the music tops it off1 Thanks!

Karen Eastlund said...

I love birds and bird poems, so this post delights me particularly. I like the point you made in the first poem, but my favorite is the third ... the rhyme and rhythm and all the bits to learn... plus the silliness. Yes! Thanks for these...