Monday, December 21, 2009

glass cassowary

In early October, I visited the Government Museum in Chennai. I'd been looking at archeological artifacts and then came to the building with animal bones and taxidermy. I walked into the room with Foreign Animals written over the door and almost fell over when I saw this cassowary in a glass case. I was so shocked that even though I had bought a ticket for my camera as well I simply couldn't photograph the bird. In my last week in Chennai I went back specifically to do so. I had trouble getting it to work and then this image appeared before my eyes. It was as if the natural world were inviting the cassowary back into its arms.

glass cassowary dp301

where they land is all important

in the government museum in Chennai
a bird in a glass case

no ordinary bird this
it’s in the room marked

beside it a tapir
a cockatoo

all on its own
a cassowary in a glass case

encased in glass
a territory hardly big enough
to turn around in

let alone disperse seed
hold up the rainforest

nothing to eat
no shade
no where to go

bring back the birds
bring home their bones
the feathers
their poor stuffed carcasses

allow this bird to rot
in the humus of the forest

I stumble out backwards
something caught in my throat

This is how a live cassowary looks: a father and his chick.


  1. I really liked this one. How you have brought life to this bird in the museum!

    The poem speaks about so many issues and problems of the present century.

    Lovely, Susan.

    Joy always,

  2. Beautiful poem, Susan - the prison of glass, the colonialism of museums, the broken cycle of life... Great photo too.