The Tawny Frogmouth [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in The Singing Garden (1935).]

The Tawny Frogmouth

I fly by night; a furtive ghoul,
To harry small bush folk;
And men who know the boobook owl
Mistake me for that dish-faced fowl
With his hunting cry, “Mopoke.”
But when you hear my grunting call
You know it’s not like that at all.

I prey until the dawn shows dim;
Then seek some gnarled old tree
And feign to be a broken limb,
Holding my pose with patience grim
For all the world to see,
Yet never guess this ragged bark
Is frogmouth, waiting for the dark.

Tail to the trunk and beak held high,
I slowly turn my head
To follow you as you pass by,
Peeping from out a hooded eye
Till your departing tread
Proves mimicry is not in vain;
And then I go to sleep again.

The curve of my bewhiskered beak
Holds death when darkness comes;
And terror spreads among the meek
Of bushland when my meat I seek
Amid the sleeping gums.
A call, a scurry, squeals of fright:
’Tis frogmouth, hunting in the night.

C. J. Dennis, The Singing Garden, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1935, pages 51-52

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