Poetry | The conversation with pest control

Not everyone knows I was once

a giant cockatoo, and the moon is an egg I laid.

I tried to keep my egg warm

but I was a drag on the tides

so I flapped back down to earth

and left her alone in the sky, cold and reflective.



Lost my wings. Lost my beak and claws.

Soft hands, slippery mouth, plain feet.


It’s been a dry, dry year. 82 mulberries

missed by the flying foxes and me

fell and were crushed, by coincidence

onto the grey pavers

in exact and tiny replicas

of Goya’s Disasters of War.


At the bus stop a bluetongue lizard

lives beneath the warm cement.

The bluetongue always has questions

asks me to ask

the man in the street why

he is looking up into the branches of the old eucalypt?


The man points out a hive, another hive, another and two more.

He’s been told to persuade the bees

out of the tree

so the chainsaw operators won’t be stung.

But the queens are deep in the limbs.

The bees won’t leave.


Even smoke won’t make them drowsy

after a season of fire.

They’re dancing the story

of the bees

on the space shuttle Discovery

learning to fly in zero g.


The moon has set.

The bluetongue

has warmed up and moved on.


The pest controller and me

stand earthed, contemplating

the tree I can’t describe: ugly, beautiful

dangerous, safe, irresolvable, hollow

the boughs like the sturdy arms of a daughter

the boughs full of bees, keeping the tree.

A place to rest

your sulphur crest.


Overland’s Friday Features project is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. 

Ali Jane Smith

Ali Jane Smith’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Cordite, Overland, Southerly, Rabbit Poetry Journal, Mascara Literary Review and Plumwood Mountain. She has also written reviews and essays for The Australian, Australian Poetry Journal, Cordite, Mascara, Southerly, and Sydney Review of Books.

More by Ali Jane Smith ›

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