Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


Incident Light

in Science & Tech by

Apparent: the riflebird’s head
heeling over each kimono sleeve,

arced wings now scaffolding
a feathered bandshell,

slash of yellow mouthparts
plastic in the undergrowth,

the throat’s liquid opaline a blue
that seems but never spills.

Harder to see
the super black in the display,

the studded barbules scattering
the low paradisal light, vamping

with a flawless dark richer
than our worst attempts at velvet,

detaching every colour patch—
self-luminous, inestimable.

Laid up in breasts and capes
and crowns of museum study skins,

even sputter-coated with gold,
such feathers come back undusted.


Poet’s Note: This poem uses fragments of this scientific article:

D. McCoy, Feo, T., Harvey, T.A. & Prum, R.O. 2018. Structural absorption by barbule microstructures of super black bird of paradise feathers. Nature Communications. 9.DOI:10.1038/s41467-017-02088-w.


Super-black is the new black [The Atlantic]

EJ Shu is an Australian-Canadian writer of poetry, nonfiction, short stories and libretti. Her most recent poetry appears or is forthcoming in Poets Reading the News, Plum Tree Tavern, Psaltery & Lyre and Cordite Poetry Review. She makes her home on the north west coast of Tasmania.

Photo by Andy Nunn of a bird-of-paradise.

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