An alliance seeking bird should present
a quiet and respectful demeanour.
The Drongo eschews gaudy ornament
and resembles a clerk or court convener
when perched in a high branch above, perhaps
a lively assembly of Pied Babblers
nesting in lower branches or a rapt
convention of anxious Meerkat scrabblers.
The Drongo's upright stance and plain black tail-coat
promote an impression of trustworthiness
so that honest warnings loosed from her throat
(gratis) are heeded by her new-found friends.
In hard times she may falsely cry snake! eagle!
hyena! (rarely wolf! - we're in Africa)
swooping in the panic to pilfer a meal.
If that doesn't work, she must be cannier
and mimic their own unique alarm calls.
A dazed and disarmed scorpion is fair
payment for her work as a sentinel
since the ingrates are unwilling to share,
yet they seem aggrieved rather than flattered.
Never mind, she spies smoke on the savannah
and flies to where the grounded things scatter,
chased by nature's swiftest bloodiest fangs.
Beak agape, she joins jewelled show-stopping
Rollers and Bee-eaters streaking through the fire's
wavering haze, where fat frantic grass-hoppers
jump out of the flames and into the fliers.
Diane Hine's Other Poems
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