Blue suede clues: Malabar Whistling Thrush

I don’t think we write poetry. We merely discover it. Poetry is everywhere; nude, unpredictable and evocative. We run around in circles, with hand mirrors pressed against our chests. We don’t create it from scratch. Breathe life into words. Or dig deeper within ourselves, past the festering muck of human drama, to find serenity in language.

Poetry sniffs us out. Then it hunts us down. It’s always either a pleasant surprise or a rude awakening. It occupies our throats. Rattles our bones. Blurs our vision. Fills our heads with delusions of inadequacy. And our hearts – with finger-plucked music and wet autumn leaves.

It can be beautiful yet empty. Melancholic but hopeful. It can be as confusing as it is comforting; as caustic as it is fragile. Strangely, it always makes us feel better about ourselves.

Malabar Whistling Thrush, Munnar

What isn’t the least bit strange is that the Malabar Whistling Thrush is more of a poem than it is a member of the Muscicapidae family of birds.

Bathed in blue, no matter the time of day, they are residents of the Western Ghats in south India. They look especially gorgeous during the monsoon. It’s when they get louder too. Known locally as “whistling schoolboys”,  they offer songs, not words, for free every morning.

I saw her first in Vattakanal years ago. But I had mistaken her for an Asian Fairy Bluebird. Months later, I followed a song of hers at dusk in the lower sections of Adukkam.

I ended up spotting the bluebirds for the first time.

Birds write such beautiful poems, don’t they?

Watch a Malabar Whistling Thrush live in concert at a cottage in Kerala

I follow many poets on WordPress. I haunt them like a jungle cat’s ghost, with my claws out, trembling in excitement at the beauty they discover. Thotpurge and Butterflies of Time – two of my favourite poetry blogs – frighten me as much as they rain-harvest me.

Malabar Whistling Thrush, Munnar

Our hearts absorb bruises,
as long as they appear in
shades of blue; our words
aren’t glue sticks, they are
beautiful, albeit rather
misleading, clues.

(Photographs: Munnar, Palani Hills, Kodaikanal, Valparai)

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41 comments

  1. Or maybe poetry writes us.

    Speaking subjectively (which, ultimately, is the only thing I know to speak of) I hardly ever feel a sense of conscious agency over my poems. I was never interested in composing or even reading poetry until 2012 when it first started popping unbidden into my head. Even back in my bass playing days when I used to write song lyrics it was never a matter of sitting down and working them out but rather inserting the music as a kind of earworm and letting the lyrics emerge by themselves.

    Tiger by the tail is a recent example of lyrics spontaneously earwormed from a Tom Waits tune while I slept, but most of my poems just arrive at my consciousness while it’s focused on other things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lucidly put, cabro! Finding poetry to be the quill, not the medium for, is a fascinating perspective, considering that our subconscious thoughts are like ink blots. Perhaps it’s why I am drawn to lesser abstract poems.

      Music is definitely a catalyst, ear worming is a great way of describing the process!

      Bassist/lyricist eh (big smile)…have you posted any of your songs?

      Like

      1. Bassist/lyricist eh (big smile)…have you posted any of your songs?

        Not unless you count recent ones like ‘tiger by the tail’. I’m only prepared to inflict so much upon those who stumble across my blog.

        It was 1981-82. The band was Indecent Assault. Vocals/rhythm guitar was Jack Toff. Lead guitar was Dildo Daggins. The lady behind the drum kit was either Liza True or Kunti Beaver, as the mood took her (and her moods took her to some strange places I can tell you). I was Mick Schtup.

        As far as the fans were concerned (if you could call people who showed up regularly to throw stuff at us ‘fans’) our best song was Singin’ the Shits – but their requests were along the lines of “PLAY THE SHIT SONG YOU FUCKIN’ WANKERS!”.

        ‘Nuff said?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am glad y’all did. Quite the name, very un-hipster, which is just dandy! Can’t wait to listen to the music. If I say “pretty fly for a cabrogal”, how much will you hate me?

        Like

  2. My mind goes blank when it comes to poetic verses. A poem that passes as ‘awesome’ for me when written from the heart more resembles something of a limerick with a meter befitting Dr. Suess. Maybe I’ve been a mom too long. 😀

    The thrush reminds me of an iridescent blackbird who stood a bit too long in the blue paint. But your fairy…gosh. That is some jacket. Good thing he’s small or he might wind up the way of the white rhino. I can see people conniving behind the scene to steal his color to wear at posh dinner parties.

    I hope the monsoon rains look as good on you, Christy! Or else you might be a wispy, soggy mess by now.

    PS – Went to the coast and got some birdy infusion…finally!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But Dr Seuss is awesome, as is his anapestic tetrameter.

      And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous He,
      Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
      And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
      As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Iridescent blackbird sounds like a dream I don’t want to wake up from. Seuss or Satre, poetry or prison diary, birds bring out the words in us, Shannon!

      Posh dinner parties hehehe yes yes stealing colours, the discreet charm of the bourgeois.

      The rains have subsided for now, I had an amazing birding trail today, let me just say that a flycatcher dropped by, and she might have some property in paradise!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. hey!
    a lovely post.

    i believe that you are a bird watcher. i need help to understand which bird sings in my society.
    she visits the society everyday at 4 am . she sings till 6.30 am.
    i stay very close to Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai.
    is there an app that will help me find which bird it is?
    i could never ever spot her! i assume that she is very tiny,
    but very very very delightful to my ears.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sonali!

      I’d love to help out. Perhaps you could describe the sound? Is it a single note? Also do tell me the sort of trees nearby. Mail to Christy.bharath@gmail.com.

      You could also record a video to capture the sound. There are plenty of websites to help shortlist the birds based on region and sound.

      I am really glad she has you this curious!

      Like

      1. All credit to these beautiful creatures, big and smell, Nandhini. I’d imagine I would be ranting about politics or something dreary and mundane if it weren’t for them. It fills with me summer sun tarts whenever others find joy in them too. Thank you again.

        Liked by 1 person

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