Why Birds Sing - L. S. Mensah


The corncrake handed

Me this proverb:

A bird

Is not a pillow.

She’d married another crake

Who built her a fine nest,

Then was thrown

Out at the break up



She croaked

In the coarse grass:

Pluck your own feathers

To make your own eider.


The grass finch whispered

In the quiet breeze:

No one bargains

For unripe yams

She’d betrothed her daughter

To an elderly goldfinch, but

Was forced to unswallow

The dowry, when her young

Died young.

Oh Dependable

God of Finches

She dirged in

The shrapnel rain

Let all songbirds

Know, not to tell

The root crop

By its climbers.


Tramping the shallows

In her pylon heels

Mrs Flamingo sieved

Lobster and krill

With the aside:

Everyday dem mek yeye

Mek laughter, sey flamingo

Na stupid bird,

Na bird idiotic

Becos im waka waka

Like telegraph pole

Wey breeze shake.

Only flamingo sabe dis:

Everyday for bird beautifuls

One day for we flamingoes.

I thought to query

The Mistress Flamingo,

But arrested thought

With counter-thought:

Even flamingos need

Their soliloquies.


The weaverbird intoned,

When he broke a beak,

Cracking the coconut's


It is the bird

Of the savannah,

Not the forest,

Who knows millet

Is edible.


The falcon buttoned

His middle talon

Into the heron’s neck

Hurtled down the sky's

Spine like tracer

Lightning, and murmured:

A confounding shame

When no one notices

The colour of shadows.

He would not elucidate

I did not expostulate.
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