by Daniel Hudon
— Heteralocha acutirostris
In the early dawn of the land of the land of the long white cloud, the clear, flute-like song of the huia rang out, penetrating the dense forest and heard a great distance away: uia, uia, uia, as if to ask where are you? though the mates were never far apart. Such graceful birds, with their black plumage and luster of blue-green iridescence, a white band on the tip of their much-desired tail feathers, their ivory bills a striking contrast: his a straight, stout chisel, hers a long delicate curve, like a honeycreeper’s.
Together they hopped from branch to branch, slightly opening their wings, flying only short intervals and resting a moment to spread the tail into a broad fan, sometimes consorting with another pair that made up a small party of delight. They stayed in the shade, in the thick of the moist forest laden with mosses and ferns and often would find a rotted log or branch and he would attack it with gusto, sending a spray of bark everywhere and she with her slender bill would follow to delicately pluck out the huhu larvae but not share it.
Later, one could see them coming back together to caress each other with their ivory bills, uttering at the same time a low affectionate twitter before bounding off, flying and leaping in succession to some favorite feeding place far away to the silent depths of the forest.
Daniel Hudon, originally from Canada, is an adjunct lecturer in astronomy and math. His book, Brief Eulogies for Lost Species, will be published this spring from Pen and Anvil Press (Boston). Other excerpts from the book have been published in The Chattahoochee Review, Canary, Clarion, Paragraphiti, Riprap, Toad, Flyway, and Extinguished and Extinct: An Anthology of Things that No Longer Exist (Twelve Winters Press). He lives in Boston, MA