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Nine Ways of Looking at a FantailC.K. Stead
Vol. 31 No. 17 · 10 September 2009

Nine Ways of Looking at a Fantail

C.K. Stead

241 words

I lift the lid
on our compost
bin. At the corner

of sight, Fantail
flickers like migraine
through the sudden

insect cloud. I
am supplier – flies
the supplies.

Fantail bounces back
off invisible

ropes. He has
perfected the hook
and the jab. Dancer

he is deft
snatcher in flight of
invisible snacks.

also of dark
memorials, it’s said

he conceals in that
innocent twitter
a summons

to attend below-
ground your contract’s
final signing.

And yes I know the
story Piwaiwaka,
how you

warned the sleeping
to close her legs

on Maui’s obscene
trespass, ending
the hero’s life.

Finesse, a
delicate arrangement

of claw-beak-
feather, of colour-
in-motion – but also

in the guise of
a clear purpose.

A visitor (Ida
would have said)
from the other

side, like the
butterfly that carried
Katy’s secret

post-mortem codes
to the transcriber
of her letters.

Uncle Ruru calls
him Autolycus,

of unconsidered
trifles. Auntie
Tui says she’s

reminded of
the unbearable
lightness of being.

Lost in the selva
oscura who should I
ask but Fantail

‘Are you my death?’
He can’t confirm
or deny, but why

he asks, so far
past nel mezzo
should it worry me?

This morning he’s
back at the bin and
darting through the

plum tree’s branches.
Winter mendicant
he wants me one

more time to lift
the lid on breakfast.
I do of course.

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