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Magpies and Me

Magpies mean a lot to me. As a young boy, my granddad introduced me to the rhyme many of us know. He also taught me the tradition of greeting the lone magpie with a salute to ward off the sorrow it brought. 

They have always been there at key moments in my life.

They are beautiful, clever birds. Resourceful and magical. Sorrow is the seed of strength. I will always pause to spend time with them both. Just in case one day they share with me their dark secrets!

And in the mean time, I have gathered below some interesting links about magpies alongside some of my art and writing inspired by these beautiful birds.

  • As Strong and Fast and Sharp as You
    That magpie out in the garden there,
    he’s as strong and fast and sharp as you.
    He’d kill you. You know that, right?
    He’d peck out your eyes,
    rip open your belly with his talons,
    and dive bomb you to obliteration.
    You know that, right?
    He’s every bit as strong and fast and sharp as you,
    my pretty little kitty.
    You wouldn’t stand a chance.
    But he’ll always keep his distance,
    and he will never start anything with you.
    So, pay attention to his warning clicks and whistles,
    to the cracking whacking of his black beak,
    and be a sensible little kitty, yeah.
    Stay well away.
    Because he’ll be sure to end you 
    if you start on him, 
    even if it ends him too.
    Chatter from a distance if you must, 
    little kitty.
    Hiss and scream behind his back if you like.
    Stretch and flex those fearsome claws.
    Scratch and bite the fence.
    Bare your teeth.
    Raise your haunches. 
    Stare him down.
    But never make a move on him.
    He’s as strong and fast and sharp as you.
    You wouldn’t stand a chance, little kitty.
    Just leave him be.
  • Sorrow
    Sorrow lands quietly 
    on the edge of my path.
    He is an old bird.
    His smooth blacks, frayed 
    and cracked by the pull of earth and time.
    His pure whites, grey-yellowed 
    by damp winds and harsh light.
    He limps. 
    His eyes shift everywhere 
    but where he's going.
    His splintered talons 
    and chipped beak 
    set about the hard ground 
    over and over.
    He is an old bird.
    He is alone.
    I stop and turn, 
    and slowly stoop
    to connect with eye contact.
    Sorrow hops away.
    Not like those tiny birds. 
    Frantic, sudden clouds of fear.  
    Winging it from anything that looms near.
    To the rooftops and lamppost tops,
    and the high wires spun between,
    to Twitter and preen in disarray.
    Sorrow just hops away.
    No further than two arms’ length,
    to where he knows he could escape.
    Stands still, cocks his head, 
    shakes out his wings and tail a bit, 
    and looks right back at me - 
    while, for a moment, I reflect 
    on our similarities.
    He is an old bird.
    He is alone.
    He is unafraid. 
    Sorrow seems happy 
    to watch me walk away. 
  • On the Verge
    Abruptly, with the fret
    of animal instinct
    blackly bothering its eyes,
    sorrow peeled away from joy.
    Beaky, monochrome, full of fury. 
    A crowbar crossed with wings,
    swooping over tar, over car,
    to engage the lone threat
    from a distant murder’s fragment.