Why did you make me a nightjar, Ma,
Such a portly unmuscular bird?
Why must I flitter this tortuous path
And emit this crepuscular churr?
Do you hear the night birds ridicule
Our spooky flap and vulgar cry?
“You Goatsuckers!” the horned owl twoos,
“You cooky Caprimulgidae!”
“You sprogs of Nyx,” the barn owl twits,
“Dark harbingers of puckeridge.”
I’m tired of being a nightjar, Ma,
Reviled by everything that flies.
“Yer beak been to the sawmill, lad?
Some Martian lend you ‘is eyes?”
Why do we have to be nightjars, Ma,
With wings like bark and legs absurd?
Hark now the mother wren invokes
Us dreaded bogeybirds:
“Don’t run afoul, my darlings,
of the gothic horror Moth Owl,
of the Corpse Fowl with the cog growl,
of the gurning, turning Fern Owl.
Be good, my little hatchlings, or
the Fly-toad will get you,
the Poor-will will deck you,
the Dor-hawk will peck at your heads.
The Nightmare Bird, believe you me,
will leave you all for dead.”
Pass the homebrew bottle, Ma,
It’s not just fowl wot’s cruel.
I’m chieftain, Aristotle says,
Of mischief and misrule.
The nightmare catfish-cuckoo flies
From demon mother Lilith’s womb,
He harvests children unbaptized
and supervises Edom’s doom.
We pass the farm, the ewegoats flee.
‘Bums to the fence, girls,’ Nanny bleats.
‘Those suckers fell out of the ugly tree,
Keep your udders away from their beaks!’
A fleeting shimmer of red silk fur –
Et tu, vulpus vulpus?
Do you, too, vanish at the churr
Of fiendish Caprimulgus?
The birds and the beasts teach us villainy, Ma.
They court their own destruction,
When we return from Cote d’Ivoire.
We’ll better the instruction.
We’ll rage with raucous toad-like tune
And wage blunt-headed battles,
Then fling our heartache to the moon
with our last
[Happy birthday, Mum!]