Our garden scarecrow, whom I have named Malcolm Eubanks, has masked up. Malcolm used to work in a department store, modeling fashionable clothing for would-be buyers. Now, his hollow head is being scoped out as a possible nest location by a pair of Carolina Wren. Such is the trajectory of our lives. But you should have seen him in his day. No one could make a pair of Dockers and a cardigan look more desirable. He had the gift.
I had caught glimpse of this bird several times since I moved here and was stumped on the ID. That white rump patch is distinct and not present on any other North American bird of this general size and shape. Not to mention the bright red below. Finally got a photo and tracked it down. Red-vented Bulbul is an Asian transplant, introduced and established in a number of countries around the world. In the US its range is limited to Houston, TX with highest concentrations in the neighborhood where I live now.
Having done web searches on its description and coming up with nothing, I fed the image above into Google Lens and it popped out the correct answer without so much a moment’s hesitation. Another handy bird ID tool.
The neighbors keep bees and they sure love that basil. It’s a really large bush covered in blossoms now, and bees.
Lots of Incas around here.
Mannequin head scarecrow is now sporting a facer. Smart lad! I saw a Carolina Wren poking around at the rear opening to his hollow head.
We claimed our independence from a sovereign, long forgot But we're all inter-dependent in what they call the melting pot Freedom: is it something that I myself have got? Exclusive of my neighbor's freedom: freedom this is not.
They visit the sunflowers here every morning.
They’re awfully spooky for an urban population. I finally had to stake out the bush from the rooftop.
Mercifully cool early in the morning on July 4th.
Ever seduced by the cult of surfaces. Morning light is when they rally to recruit new members. The gallery of nobs above is a detail of a sculpture whose final appearance is still under development by the steady hand of time and weather.
I have published a poetry collection via KDP for print and Kindle, available now on Amazon. Those of you who read me here will find nothing new, it’s a collection of my considered best poetry and prose gathered from the blog, and packaged with a cute title and a pretty cover. Please pardon my indulgence. What has two thumbs and finds itself scrounging about in a state of underfunded retirement in a wildly uncertain world? This dharma bum right here. <emoji>polite laughter</emoji>
“A poem may have no driving force other than its own willingness to stumble candidly into moments as they arise, with unguarded awareness and no clear design. As the wordplay begins, the intentions take form and that is the dance. Both wonder and calamity beckon: it is a hazard and a romance, a mischief and a drama, it dabbles in crisis, rests in curiosity.”
(Index to the print edition)
Acres are a Toss Away, 40
An Abundance of Halves, 78
As If It Is, 32
Bell Strike, 12
Belly Dance, 30
Book of Rain, 18
Cell Division, 66
Chika on the Tarmac, 76
Chit for Chat, 10
Confidence Game, 13
Epigram for an Ego, 44
Fly by Night, 3
Hackberry Moon, 74
How to Abide on Queue, 48
Lapin Agile, 53
Little Done, 19
Lost and Found in the Rings of Saturn, 9
Love at First Sight, 2
Making It, 58
Nomenclature for Dummies, 8
Ogle It, 64
Quiet Mischief in a Damn Fine Universe, 80
Six Mile Snake, 72
The Chameleon’s Dish, 60
The Days, They Fall Upon, 59
The Fourth of You Lie, 73
The Guru Rinpoche Rehab Clinic in the Sky, 38
The Honerable Judge Mental, Presiding, 75
The Knees, 47
The Phone Intransitive, 39
The Tao is None of Your Business, 6
These Men, 46
Too Cool, 63
What to Do if You See a Bear, 55
White After Dark, 45
Why So Quiet, 50
Reading Life Aloud, 14
Flier, Flier, Pants on Fire, 34
It played out slow, like danced-out
Music, a trace of smoke from
A years-old fire, like doubts sneaking
Peeks at a once-proud confidence
I’ve had my encounter with the covid-19, or at least suspect I did. One night of fever and feeling quite ill, followed by a week of mild flu-like symptoms. I was already in self-isolate mode and well stocked for supplies so no biggie. At day five I called Family Medicine at UTMB and they got me right in for the test. Being aged sixty-five gets you something like a senior discount in this particular pandemic. During my examination I got to revisit my blood pressure issue and got a new stronger scrip right there on the spot. The covid test came back the next day, negative, but with the caveat that they’re seeing a lot of false negatives.
Two weeks out and I’m feeling back to normal, newly resigned from my job, looking at a thin gruel of future to sustain me. The new blood pressure meds are working great though. About the only good set of numbers I’m seeing these days.
Stability is sodded
with an eagerness to perceive
that things aren’t changing.
aging: —a gradual dissipation of vanity, by force if necessary. Resistance is possible, though the subject’s levels of self-absorption must increase four-fold in proportion to the level of sustained mirror gazing desired.
Being is the tiger’s tail
these bodies come and go
Being is the monkey’s grin
if only it weren’t so
Notebook, April 2020
Paper coffee filter
2 small key rings
To reiterate what’s coming from the authorities: we should consider that we may be infected and not know it. Makeshift face coverings do help to contain infectious micro-droplets from flying all over the place when you exhale, but don’t do as much as far as filtering out airborne particles when you breathe in.
Many examples already exist for doing face coverings with at-hand materials. Mine uses one of those big wide wire-ties that come on coffee bags to create a stiff bendable ridge across the top of the mask to snug it up across the bridge of your nose. Bandana material does not do so well as a filter, so I added a paper coffee filter into the fold. Vaccuum cleaner bag material would be good as well.
Gather up each side near the edge of the coffee filter and secure with a small ring or rubber band or hair tie. They make extra-small key rings that I found to be perfect as far as adjustability goes. When you’re out shopping, keep your distance from people, stay relaxed and breathe shallow. It’s no fun at all to wear but honestly, these are dangerous times. Lots of people were wearing a wide variety of facers at the Kroger’s yesterday so I fit right in.
Don’t get it. Don’t spread it.
Illustrations by me using GIMP.
I am not advocating for universal health care. I believe we should establish planet-wide care for all inhabitants first, and then concern ourselves with the rest of the galaxy. Those who dwell in other parts of the universe must implement their own programs. Our resources are not, like the universe, infinite.
Late in the evening the wail of a siren.
We had not heard any gun shots, though they are frequent enough these days to elicit shrugs. Neighborhood dogs start to howling, echoing the alarm, filling in their own parts in harmony. The air is stickered with it, like a collage with scraps of noise, pasty smears of sound. But it’s nighttime and the sounds make their way sightlessly until they find an ear, any ear. The noise of day with its throngs of listeners is retired now, and the evening runs things its own way.
Lacking earlids we live with sound’s endless impressions. We are always hearing, always soaking in sound’s pressing embrace. I like to tap on glass to hear what it is, to hear its clarity. In the seashell we hear the sea. In the wind rustled leaves, music. Halted in traffic, the signature of a culture comes booming from a nearby truck. Idle chatter or clarion calls, these pings and flourishes are themselves the markers of silence.
Out in the desert, away from roads and towns, the markers come from another quarter. It’s the yips of coyote or the serrated hum of insects that mark the silence. A pause in the mute dark recalls the ghosts of the sounds that had once passed this way.
Sirens or crickets, a gap, a faint distant ring. Like prospectors, we pan the grit and soil of our hearing, looking for specks and nuggets of silence. But a simple lack of sound is an artifact of subtraction. The quiet we found was there all along. We are to silence as fish are to water.
And the city, weary of its own bleats and braying, finally settles down. The dogs too, now that they’ve had their say.
There is wildness in the mechanical lurching of interleaved parts. Eagerness in the hum of transformers. You can feel it in the finger gliding sheen across chrome steel and in the abrasions of puckered tree bark. It all plies soundly in the aggregate. I see as beached waves, their edges traced in foam, the mark and sign of the human. The beasts we call tame reflect the wilderness of an unchecked procession. I do not condemn it. I take delight in these civil surfaces with their attendant racket and classify the most garish of artifice as natural.
I have looked for the dividing line between nature and us. It is ambiguous and replaceable. It is indistinct. There is always the wild, partisan little weed erupting from a crack in our concrete cornucopia. There is no edge to the wilderness, any more than you can assign a shape to infinite space. There are no sounds outside of silence. There are no unwild things.
World views define the qualities of nature, and a world view always selects one thing over another. But nature itself has its finger in every pie. Nature is its own nature, and we the curious, eager to understand, confront the absurdity of cataloging it all. It is troublesome that understanding lacks closure, that it’s always cutting another notch. But how we love the language, with all its baggage, hailing a taxi, catching a plane, late as usual for another explanation.
The manuscripts, tucked away in a folder, are themselves mute. The stamps and sprinkles of ink rest upon the paper, waiting for us. Waiting for our eyes and mouths. Then, to complete the purpose of language, we are born, we come to letters. But first, we come to know by reading life aloud.
About the image: I had placed some red wine in a small blue ceramic cup on the offering shelf and days later found it had dried to form a tiny crystalline planetarium.