Ballad Of Nigel No Mates by Jerome Betts

Ballad Of Nigel No Mates

“New Zealand conservationists mourn loss of
celebrated bird that was lured by replica gannets
in the hope of establishing a breeding colony.”
— Guardian

Mana Island’s last rats had been banished
And now it was time to restore
The gannets who’d long ago vanished
From the cliffs overlooking the shore.

Concrete replicas fostered illusion,
(And solar-powered sound effects too)
But they led to a different conclusion
From the one it was hoped would ensue.

A wandering male made a landing
On the fake-dotted rocks of the isle
And the subsequent misunderstanding
Saw him named, and the world crack a smile.

For some years Nigel fruitlessly courted,
The hard-hearted hen he found there
Though the paint-job his paramour sported
Reminds us of you-know-who’s hair.

He stuck to the one he’d elected;
No others could quite break her spell −
Not just those human hands had erected
But three real arrivals as well.

Then he died, but his life was not wasted,
His tryst had ensured others came
And if Mana’s once more guano-pasted
He’ll deserve, as the founder, his fame,

Still, the scale of the sadness is planetary
That he’ll not see some chicks fledge for roles
In a throng flying far from his gannetry
To plunge-fish the New Zealand shoals.

by Jerome Betts

Editor’s Note: The juxtaposition of a rollicking meter and rhyme with the inherent doom of a resident species complicates this poem (but that is what ballads do).

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