Wednesday, May 21, 2008


A Middle aged man sometimes unexpectedly finds himself with a chunk of spare time amongst the activities of his day. A rare occurrence, he makes certain when this happens that he uses this time in the best way he knows how – by doing precisely nothing. We find him sitting on the kerb idly tossing pebbles amongst autumn leaves at the back of an inner city hotel. His thoughts run.

There is a tree roughly opposite his seating place, nearly empty of leaves but laden with a city of birds. The man has never seen so many birds condensed into a single location. Each branch droops under the weight of its occupants. The man thinks that the tree is like a kaleidoscope of chittering shapes and colours. He spots fantails and sparrows and finches and blackbirds and native pigeons and waxeyes and thrushes, loosely assembled into specie-based factions. He feels for the braches that support a large group of heavy looking birds, blackly silhouetted against the sky.

A woman stands underneath the tree by the road dressed in a vivid Cobalt blue coat, black leggings, black boots. She has a felt beret pushed rakishly over the side of her shock of auburn hair. Her eyes are furtive. The man notices the sky behind her melting slowly from azure to light pink to something more like her coat.

Overhead the birds continue their recreational politics, preening, or jumping from branch to branch. The man wonders if he is foolish to consider that two birds sitting snugly against one another may be in love. Love in high branches, a concentric safety, where two hearts orbit each other.

Just then an old car pulls up and the woman gets in without a word. As she does she casts her gaze across the scene, something between a survey and a goodbye. Her eyes pass over the spot where the man sits but they don’t linger. As the car starts up and crawls forward there is a sharp retort from the exhaust, a gunshot-like backfire. The tree explodes in a squall of tawny arrows as birds flee the sound in every direction. For a moment the air is filled with a haphazard firework as the fleeing birds exodus radiates them outwards. The flight of individual birds appear random but the combined shape of their flight makes the sky look like a black firecracker has exploded – silhouettes against a steadily more blue sky. Crazy cinders drop and swerve as like finds like. Out of the initial chaos small bands become groups become packs. Only a few seconds have passed and a small haze of blue smoke hangs lazily over the road.

The tree is shivering its relief, every bough lightened, like a spring released. As it quivers an organic dancing the man thinks that it must momentarily feel like a sapling again, light and joyous. He is reminded of the way he felt when he heard his partner had become pregnant – two years ago.

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John Ward Knox. Curriculum Vitae