Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Cassowaries in far north Queensland are under threat from developers, increasing traffic and deforestation. I thought it time to put up this poem from my book, Earth's Breath. They are magnificent birds and this photo is of a father and his chick. Yes the fathers do the rearing. Maybe we need to begin evolution again!

Casuarius casuarius johnsonii

no wabu, no wuju, no gunduy
no forest, no food, no cassowary

―Djiru saying.

A girl goes into the forest
the forest is a rainforest
her guide is a cassowary
the cassowary knows her way through the forest
she knows all the fruits of the forest
she is mistress of the forest
the fruits are red blue orange green and yellow
the girl must collect the fruit

Along comes a big wind
a wind that lifts and
twists the trees round and round
so that their trunks are spiralled
the wind hauls trees out of the earth
and throws them every which way
the girl shelters under the heavy black feathers
of the cassowary which pin her to the ground

When the big wind has passed
the girl is disoriented
she no longer knows which way is up
she hardly knows which is east or west
which is sun which is moon
clouds scud across the sky
but they have lost their shapes
no longer are there stories in the clouds
just loss

The cassowary tries to comfort the girl
at first there is plenty of fruit
fallen fruit native plum lilly pilly quandong
the girl wanders behind disconsolately
from time to time she nibbles at the rotting flesh
but it soon sours
the bitter seed takes over from the soft flesh

As the days pass
the cassowary must wander further and further afield
she ventures into places she’s never been before
followed by the girl
soon the fruit is nowhere to be found
the two sit down to wait for windfall
quietly they drop into sleep
quietly they die


  1. Love the poem Sue - and the photo of the Cassowaries brought back sweet memories of my time at Mission beach. Guess the chick that visited my window must have gown quite a bit by now.

  2. Yes it has. I had to back off pretty quickly on day and Renate had to give up her tomatoes which it was far too interested in!