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Backyard Birding With Rudyard Kipling



Published February 9, 2011 at 7:22 a.m.


Last week Roberta Harold of Montpelier sent us what she called “a piece of doggerel” that she had written and didn’t know what to do with — until she read Kevin J. Kelley’s “WTF” article about all the crows in Burlington [February 2]. Though she was under the impression Seven Days does not publish poetry, we assured her that we do, sometimes, and that we were going to publish hers because we liked it. Here’s her explanation:

“It came about because I was at a writing retreat with friends in an old farmhouse, where I saw a book on a shelf that I thought at first was titled Rudyard Kipling, but in fact said Backyard Birding. This was the resulting brainstorm.”

Backyard Birding With Rudyard Kipling

You may boast about your ’awks

An’ your mythologic rocs

An’ your barn and brindled, barred and spotted owl,

But from all I’ve come to know

Your common English crow

Is the reigning wise old emperor of fowl.

For your crow will find a way

To outlast a freezin’ day

An’ to live on what the others would disdain,

An’ he’ll only eat it dead,

Missing arm or leg or ’ead,

So ’e’ll never cause his dinner any pain.

An’ it’s caw, caw, caw!

As ’e swoops across the fields an’ farmers’ yards,

Where ’e does a lot of good

Cleanin’ dead ’uns for ’is food,

Though you’ll never ’ear ’im sung of by the bards.

For it’s nightingales, not starlings

Who turn up the poets’ darlings

With your darkling thrushes an’ romantic larks,

Who are sought across the land

With binoculars in hand,

From the briny seashores to the London parks.

An’ it’s caw, caw, caw!

As the sky turns black with flappin’ flocks o’ crows,

Makin’ wing to rooky woods,

Never up to any good,

From the viewpoint of their prejudicial foes.

To profess a taste for corvids

Is considered some’at morbid,

Since the days of Edgar Poe’s unliftin’ gloom —

As a long-term indoor guest,

I admit ’e’d be a pest,

Leavin’ guano stains about the sittin’ room.

But give that bird ’is due,

For ’e cleans up arter you,

An, unlike some others, doesn’t beg for feed,

An’ ’e’s faithful all year long

As ’is scratchy, croaky song

Breaks the deadly silence of a winter mead.

For it’s caw, caw, caw!

As they swoops across the snowy woods an’ fields,

In a murder or unkindness

As they’re labeled by the mindless,

On a quest for yet another rotten meal.

Now your clever crow don’t care

An’ it’s none o’ his affair

If the humans think the other birds superior,

For ’is virtue lies within,

So, no more than Gunga Din,

Don’t you judge ’im by his sooty black exterior!