Magpie, thief of diamonds, stealer of sapphires,
miser of pearl necklaces,
scavenger of rubies, gold rings,
predator of bright stones,
which is all that jewels are to you,
in your cold crow caw,
the crook in you sings.
Never would they suspect a criminal so small,
and one with wings.
You weave your nest round your costly bed,
haunt the dreams of the ghostly dead.
Windows are left open in summer,
best time for you, bird burglar.
Outside the opera house on the opening night
or a film premiere at the cinema,
you perch yourself on a lamp post or stony shelf,
eye the jewels worn by the women,
as they enter the door,
note the path of the cars that drive them home,
find out where they live, flap down from the night sky,
perch on a fence or the branch of a tree,
outside their grand town house or country mansion.
When the bedroom is empty,
fly in through the open window,
swift, silent, and with your beak and claws,
you steal from the jewel box, the dressing table display,
even learned to push open drawers,
not locked with a key.
Then you flap to your nest with your shiny stones,
which is all that jewels are to you.
The theft discovered, the police inspector is baffled.
Must be the work of a thief of great skill and experience,
he concludes in his report, for he used no ladder,
never suspecting a bird. He looked for fingerprints not feathers.
Stealer of shiny stones, if I looked in your nest,
if I found anything other than twigs, feather fluff,
it would be naught but bright bottle tops, rusted nails,
twists of silver paper, for whenever was reality like the myth?
Truth on the table, rarely like a fable.
Yesterday morning, I tried to take your photograph,
perched as you were on my back garden fence,
but by the time I got my camera, you had flapped away.
For a moment, you looked to me, ghostly,
like an old act from a music hall, long shut down.
From my seat, I called:
“Entertain us, Tommy, with your hat and cane.
Tell us something funny.
Sing that song we will want to hear again.”
Magpie, thief of diamonds,
though truth is on the table,
still you can flap your wings
in the enchantment of a fable.