Sunday, 21 June 2009

Blackbird and man

Neither of our cats had caught anything till now. I look through my window because of tremendous bird agitation. I see Pearl, our larger cat, being pursued across the top of the fence by a furious male blackbird. Cat is backing away, blackbird advancing. It turns out Pearl has small blackbird in her mouth. She doesn't know what to do. She leaps down from the fence, blackbird follows her, making a single high pitched furious sound, the bird's equivalent of barking or screaming, and continues, continues, without a moment's cease. Pearl retreats under the yard table. She still has the young dead blackbird in her mouth. The bird continues quite mad with fury and grief,.

I can still hear it. It is lamentation, alarm, anger and, occasional brief spells of exhaustion.

Earlier today, C and I were driving into the university. I drew up at a traffic light with two lanes. A big four-wheel van drew up on my outside with its nose in front, clearly wanting to be ahead. The lights changed and our old Ford starts easily so, without any particular effort, we happened to be in front. The road narrows to a single lane. We are still in front. The man is desperate to cut us up. He had intended to be quick off the blocks at the traffic lights and had somehow failed. The failure bugs him. I bug him. He is clearly furious. He tailgates me at a few inches off, no more than six inches behind at 40, then when the speed limit moves to 30 and I too move down to 30 he is practically touching my bumper. Then I turn off for the university. He hoots and gives me the finger. I hoot back and give him the finger. I too am angry. There was no need for any of this. I haven't done anything except possess a car that has started more easily and this, it seems, has driven him mad. So mad that he slows, stops and turns and follows me down the university drive. He wants a fight or a shouting match. But then we are in the car park and he can't follow there without a card. He turns back again and leaves.

Blackbird with lost young. Man with dented pride at not being able to cut up an older car. Both furious.

And now the blackbird is back again still doing the blackbird version of barking and screaming, and Pearl is still cowering under the table. No cure for the blackbird's grief. Too late for the young bird. The blackbird feels what we too would feel, yet the sheer intensity of his grief and fury amazes me. As for the man - his fury comes from somewhere I can only guess at. Bad day at work? Bad weekend? Natural belligerence? Nowhere near as sympathetic as the blackbird of course.


Poet in Residence said...

Blackbirds are very territorial. I've seen 3 of them fighting to the death over a claim on small patch of orchard. Bit like people really. Bit like a coach driver who tried to overtake me. I was travelling exactly on the 80 km limit, coach in a hurry (perhaps behind schedule) on my back bumper for last 5 kms tries to overtake, gets alongside me and spots a car coming the other way - a head-on collision looks inevitable. I slow down to leave bus driver a gap. Bus driver slows down alongside me, refused my offer (pride I suppose). For revenge he tries to run me off the road and into the river - I slam on my brakes and make an emergency stop. He waves his fist, rapidly changes down a gear or two and off he goes, happy as a lark or perhaps more like a sore blackbird. Give me larks anyday.

P Nolan said...

Why, this is very midsummer madness.

George S said...

Cats! For a minute or so you almost hate them for killing birds, then you remind yourself the bird has been killing snails and worms. And then we eat the birds ourselves.

Greater fleas have lesser fleas upon their backs to bite 'em;
And lesser fleas have lesser fleas and so ad infinitum...

Dean Swift, isn't it? Red in tooth and claw (Tennyson), etc.

But the man might have behaved differently of course.

Andrea Holland said...

G I loved this piece, on the blackbird's grief, the man's anger.
rage rage rage its all around us, intense and only barely contained...
thank you for this piece.