Cassowaries, Etty Bay – Jena Woodhouse

They stride out of prehistory.
Their gait is measured, leisurely,
a stately placing of prehensile toes
whose middle claw can kill.
There is a degree of pomp
in panoplies of plumage,
layers of black feathering
enhancing their aplomb,
a living cape from which the lofty
blue and crimson neck protrudes,
the head crowned with a casque of horn
pre-dating Babylon and Rome.

They make their regal way among
chance courtiers, the day-trippers,
posing for a photo shoot,
peering into picnic hampers,
scooping up the offerings of fruit
and choice exotic morsels,
scorning hands that reach to touch
the flounce of elegant black plumes,
slipping into rainforest like shadows
to elude the throng:
primeval apparitions that once
trod the Earth with dinosaurs
and lingered on, imprinting
after-images in sleek iphones,
reminders of the marvellous
that vanishes as we look on,
another species that may not
survive our hegemon.