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The Emu

All written material on this site is ©Rick Fine. Anyone interested in using material from the kids' section for performance can use the Contact page to get permission. There is no charge, but I like to keep track of where things are going and what's being done with them.

emu

This began as a poem for Emily's kindergarten class, but I got a little carried away. It's still a kids' poem, but maybe a little older than five or six. There is also a study guide that goes with the poem that has pictures of the animals and places mentioned. If you are interested send me an email from the Contact page.

THE EMU

A long time past in the far beyond
The sky stretched over the dried out land.
There without river, lake or pond:
A waterless world of dust and sand.

Where the stars’ faint light shared the night
With the hovering aurora’s blush,
But the noonday sun, so furiously bright,
Withered the forests and shriveled the brush.

The shrubs and bushes as dry as dead,
And trees no more than stumps in the ground.
But though life hung by a slender thread,
The animals were still around.

The Goanna Lizard, the Wallaby,
Bandicoot and Kowari,
The spiny Echidna, the spotted Quoll,
Wombat, Numbat, Marsupial Mole.
The Kangaroo, Walleroo, and Potoroo;
And the Bunyip, some say, lived there, too.

And over them all the Emu flew,
On mighty wings in a sky of blue.
With a tail that flowed like a royal robe
Of fluttering feathers that shimmered and glowed.
To those below who saw his flight,
This was the World’s most glorious sight.

And in that time, so long ago,
When on the land that was their home,
Not a thing could live or grow
In earth as parched as an oven stone.

The older animals had maintained,
That taking history, overall,
It was not long since last it rained,
For it had never rained at all.

Whatever water had been found,
Left from when the world was new,
Had baked out of the scorching ground;
Vanished, never to renew.

And far above as the sun rose high,
The Emu soared through the clear blue sky
On wings so wide that the shadow cast,
Was a sweep of darkness that slowly passed.
And they thought themselves blessed, though perhaps not wise,
Who lived in the land where the Emu flies.

But love of home can’t alter fate,
And theirs they knew would be the worst,
If they should choose to stay and wait,
Until they all had died from thirst.

Still, they thought, there’s risk in haste
To leave the land where they had grown.
Who knew what dangers that they faced
In setting out for parts unknown?

And might whatever land they found
Be worse than this, the land they know?
For where, in all the world around
Was any better place to go?

While far aloft the Emu soars,
The length and breadth of Australia’s shores.
And past the southern shore he sees,
A realm of storms and roaring seas,
Where the sun was pale and rarely broke
Through clouds as dark as brush fire smoke.

He turned his eyes from that fearful shore,
Since powerful storms were things to dread.
Other coasts were to explore,
So far off to the north he sped.

Where off that shore he spied a land
Of misted mountains clothed in green.
Where hills rose lush from the wave washed sands,
And water flowed in sparkling streams.

The sight inspired hope, despite
The course it bound him to pursue,
And next time that he rose in flight
He’d pass beyond the world he knew.

For time had come for things to change
From what had been since long ago,
And though it seemed unsure and strange,
He clearly saw which way to go.

Then in the twilight dim and soft,
Returning from his day aloft,
The Emu came to gently drop
Down to the crest of Uluru Rock,
Where in his hidden nest he’d stay,
Unseen until the break of day.

Next day at dawn the beasts all met
Below the Rock’s tall palisade.
Their destination still unset,
They’d come to seek the Emu’s aid.

Who else might know a far off land
Where they could go and safely stay?
But would a bird so high and grand
Descend to guide them on their way?

They wondered, looking at the height
Where the Emu slumbered in his lair,
Did he even know their plight?
Or if he did, then would he care?

And then they saw the Emu rise
Into the Outback’s empty skies.
And as it looked to those below,
His wings were flames in the sunrise glow.
His tail a streaming comet’s plume,
As bright and red as the gum tree’s bloom.

They saw him climbing steep and high,
Up through the morning’s fiery light,
And as he climbed he gave a cry:
A trumpet call, resounding bright.

The sound bespoke a pure delight
That thrilled the heart, but brought to mind:
A spirit launched in boundless flight
Would leave the world’s concerns behind.

They might as well attempt to talk,
To the towering cliff that rose close by.
The dawn flushed face of the glowing rock
Was no less likely to reply.

And so, they thought, we’re on our own,
To make our way as best we might.
But could we bear to leave our home
Before we’ve seen just one last flight?

While the Emu soaring high above
The bleak and dried-up world they loved,
Veered from the north, to come about
And set his course straight to the south.
Then once again his cry rang out:
A warrior’s exulting shout.

Toward that realm of tempest’s clash
He flew until the sun went down.
Then saw ahead the lightning flash,
And heard the rumbling thunder sound.

He plunged into the storm’s dark tower,
Where Nature’s fury looms unchained,
Then beat his wings with all his power
To take command and drive the rain.

But in a rage the storm replies,
And with a savage howling din,
That echoed through the southern skies,
Let loose the blasting polar wind.

It blew from over and below
Until the bird was wrapped about
In a cyclone swirl of feathers and snow,
That froze within and lashed without.

And all that night the Emu fought,
To drive the raging storm he’d caught.
And careless of the damage done,
He thrashed his wings till he had won.
Then by the lightning’s livid glow,
He saw his land appear below.

It seemed like weeks the rain poured down,
In torrents from the slate gray sky.
It soaked and slaked the thirsty ground
Till on the day the clouds ran dry.

And when the burning sun came out,
To boil the storm’s last drops to steam,
The soggy Emu looked about,
Then spread his weary wings to preen.

But seeing feathers crushed and torn,
The Emu found, to his dismay,
He’d thrashed so hard to drive the storm,
His wings were all but worn away.

So on the land the Emu walked,
So weary from the battle fought,
He hardly noticed how his legs
Were stripped as bare as wooden pegs,
Or how his tail, of such renown,
Had been completely whittled down.

And as he walked, the crust of mud
Was baking in the sun’s fierce heat,
Until all traces of the flood
Had vanished from beneath his feet.

Then like the sweeping tide of war
The sun dried up and scorched the land,
Until it looked just as before:
A waterless world of dust and sand.

And, so it seemed, his daring scheme
To make this land as lush and green
As off the northern shore he’d seen,
Was no more than a wishful dream.

The Emu went on with his walk,
The long way back to Uluru Rock,
And while his thoughts ran to the night
Of his exhausting final flight,
A pleasant sound came to his ear
Of water bubbling, sweet and clear.

Before him ran a trickling stream,
A sight that certainly inferred
That something’s on behind the scene,
And wondering what, a thought occurred:

To flee the sun, its natural foe,
Perhaps the rain had chose to drain
Into the porous rock below,
Then, here and there, seep back again.

He saw the stream run on and flow
Into a billabong, and there
Upon the bank, as white as snow,
A tea tree bloomed in the scented air.

And so the water, safe and sound,
Was percolating underground.
Less than he’d hoped, but who could say
The price had been to great to pay?
The land was saved. Of that, no doubt.
So right, she’ll be, when all sorts out.

New life sprang up where water ran,
And as the dying land renewed,
The animals gave up their plan
To bid their cherished home adieu.

It still was harsh, and mostly dry,
Conditions that they’d come to see
As things on which they could rely,
And just the way it ought to be.

But while their world seemed near all right,
One matter had them still concerned:
How after that last morning’s flight,
The Emu never had returned.

The Kangaroo, the Wallaby,
Koala Bear and Kowari,
The Wombat, Numbat and spotted Quoll,
The Bandicoot and Marsupial Mole,
Walleroo, Potoroo, and all the other Outback crew,
Wondered where he’d gotten to.

Though round about there had been talk
Of a raggedy beast with a curious stare,
Gazing up at Uluru Rock
As if he had some business there.

They said he looked a bit absurd,
A walking shrubbery, more or less,
And whether he was feathered or furred,
Was more than anyone could guess.

But a stranger’s welcome, that’s the rule,
So all agreed to be polite;
To not say something rude or cruel,
And reckon him in his own right.

The stranger took it all as fair,
And even did his best to share
The hope they knew would always last,
And keep the dream as years went past:
To hear at dawn a joyous cry,
Then once more see the Emu fly!

©Rick Fine

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