Robert Sward


The dodo is two feet high, and laughs.
A parrot, swan-sized, pig-, scale-legged
bird. Neither parrot, nor pig-nor swan.
Its beak is the beak of a parrot,
a bare-cheeked, wholly beaked and speechless
parrot. A bird incapable of
anything--but laughter. And silence:
a silence that is laughter--and fact.
And a denial of fact (and bird).
It is a sort of turkey, only
not a turkey; not anything. --Not
able to sing, not able to dance
not able to fly...
--The Dutch called it the 'nauseous bird,'
Walguögel, 'the uncookable.'
Its existence (extinct as it is)
is from the Portuguese: Duodo, 'dumb,'
'stupid,' 'silly.' And the story of its
having been eaten on Rodrigues
Island by hogs, certain sailors & monkeys:
Didus ineptus. A bird that aided
its own digestion, of seeds and leaves,
by swallowing large stones. It has been called,
though with birds (extinct or otherwise)
crosses are a lie, a cross between
a turkey and a pigeon. The first,
it is claimed, won out; and, having won,
took flight from flight (its wings but tails, gray
yellow tufted white). And for reasons
as yet unknown.
Its beak is laughter
and shines, in indifference-and size.
It has the meaning, for some, of wings:
wings that have become a face: embodied
in a beak... and half the dodo's head...
It laughs--silence, its mind, extends from its ears:
its laugh, from wings, like wrists, to bill, to ears.

Robert Sward 2002

Didus Ineptus
Robert Sward

Didus Ineptus

Absurd, magnificent, and hunger
than swan or turkey-cock, this flightless antique pigeon
once roamed at his anachronistic leisure
among the broad-leaved travelers' trees and aloes
upon that manless isle,
dawnward from Madagascar,
which may have been old Pliny's isle of Cerne.
Laying in peace the large, the one white egg
on the mat of woodland grass
through ages of that slothfull praradise,
the dodo flourlshed in his archaic fashion,
learning no need of wings and having but few feathers,
exempt from competition
save of his only fellow-islanders,
the wingless rail, the short-winged heron,
some curious doves and parroquets
and the fruit-gorging bat:
of which the well-winged have survived alone.
Then came the eastward-driving Portuguese,
the Dutch, the French, the English,
to try in turn the dodo's meat, to find no mode
nor amount of cooking made it palatable,
and yet to leave of him no remnant
other than drawings, paintings, and a legend
or something great and harmless and grotesque . . .
And no one knows
what colonist it was who killed the last
of the prodigious brood, nor in
what century he earned his dim distinction . . .
So passers wonder
unnoted and unrumored from the earth.

Robert Sward 1960


Dear Rainer Dombrowsky,
Thank you for your email. Yes, you may use my poem Dodo on your internet
pages. Please include credit line to read:
The poem Dodo is reprinted with permission, Copyright (C) 1960, 2002, Robert Sward,
"Heavenly Sex and Other Poems," Black Moss Press, 2002.

Also, my new email address:
Yours truly,
Robert Sward