Philip Neilsen
Bees and birds


Bees are the most invaluable species on this planet … If the bees were to disappear today, humans would follow suit very soon.
– Earthwatch Institute

It was when the humming grew so loud

that children covered their ears

and dogs tried to creep into the moon,

when yellow mist clogged our machines

and the weight of hives brought ceilings down,

that we knew the revolution had come.                  

They repurposed the feckless into workers,

taught us the dance that knits air to petal

and the unselfish sting.                                       

At first clumsy, after years of practice                      

we too could float from style to stamen,

giddy with greens and ultraviolet,                          

in the companionship of dragonflies                                            

we marched from marigold

to mulberry, to fig and orchard apple

around which no fence was too tall.      

There must be some things we miss

from the old life in cold brick hives,

but we no longer remember.

Our heads are perfumed with garden maps,

wattle season, glory of compound eyes

and intoxication of the swarm,

the sun-swollen gynoecium

that centres every flowering plant.

This is the ecstasy of all shapeshifters,

the pollen and sap of becoming,

our late-budding adaptation

to finally belong.      


Birds Increase Human Happiness,
Study Finds

If you feel the urge to question this science

you have not heard of the man sitting in his ute

at the fag end of a bush track

with the weight of a rifle on his lap

who was distracted by two silvereyes

chasing each other through undergrowth

and turned the key again with the dangling letter A.

You have not seen bee-eaters burst

from a muddy burrow,

or heard butcherbirds in antiphonal light                                         

so that for a while you forget

about stage four ovarian cancer.

You are not the mediaeval wanderer

who survived winter

under a Doona swarm of swallows.

Nor are you the researcher at Kiel University

who discovered that unhappiness correlates

to a decline in avian diversity.

You could be that Lycra guy in the coffee shop who said

why don’t they discover something serious.

Philip Neilsen teaches poetry writing at the University of Queensland. His sixth collection, Wildlife of Berlin, was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize in 2019.

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