Down

Featherless freaks
thin skinned fur poachers
look what all we traded
to be brainy enough
to have worries.

Shivers are the hoarse song
poking in to the tune of life
where our molecules shudder
and shrink and malfunction
in the sluggish low frequencies
that will withdraw
the very beats from our hearts
should our adaptations fail.

Here in Texas we are maneuvering our way back to normal after a shock of extreme weather knocked things about. The agency here that governs power grid management is more aligned with Enron-style market games than it is with the public good, so wish us luck.

Photo: Northern Mockingbird on a cold morning, (CC-BY-SA) 2021, G. Paul Randall

A Scattering of Light

Clouds break up the monotonous blue expanse above and the light, illuminating it all down to the last wispy puff, has yet to deal with the billions of serrated leaf edges awaiting its arrival down here in the thick of nature, whose every quality owes much to humanity’s rare neglect.

Did not see many birds on my walk yesterday. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are here for the winter and I caught sight of a Tennessee Warbler. Early morning light makes the myriad details of a Texas prairie erupt in a festival for the eyes. I walked the trails in silence, slipping my mask back up over my nose when I encountered other people.

I did see and photograph a mute Mockingbird contemplating something relating to life as birds would have it. She sat still for it, which is the only way I can grab a bird portrait at distance. (Idea for a camera feature: button that emits a silent signal heard only by wildlife that says, “stay still for a moment, it’s important.”)

Mocking-Bird                         
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Then from a neighboring thicket
    the mocking-bird, wildest of singers,
Swinging aloft on a willow spray
    that hung o’er the water,
Shook from his little throat
    such floods of delirious music,
That the whole air and the woods
    and the waves seemed silent to listen. 
Plaintive at first were the tones
    and sad: then soaring to madness
Seemed they to follow or guide
    the revel of frenzied Bacchantes.
Single notes were then heard,
    in sorrowful, low lamentation;
Till, having gathered them all,
    he flung them abroad in derision,
As when, after a storm, a gust of wind
    through the tree-tops
Shakes down the rattling rain
    in a crystal shower on the branches.

Bothered a little by some lower back pain, I cut my walk short and was soon racing along on Houston’s 610 Loop, in sync with the speeding hordes, light scattering off of pavement and chrome bumpers, and nature somehow accommodating it all. I feel like a voyeur, sneaking peeks at the beauty of the world from a little hiding spot not quite in it.

Chipper

When I said I was feeling chipper
I didn’t mean cheery, like a dandy squirrel
with a cache of ripe pecans, no.

I meant like that groaning, shrieking
grinder box that sucks in green oak limbs
the size of Sam Houston’s neck and erupts
in a volcanic, yawning siren like
a Mississippi bigot shouting “frown!”
at a blind beggar, who can’t see his face.

And splinters it, bark and heart, leaf
and bud, into shattered, whip-torn
little pieces piled neat, like bones.

And the air, in the silence bound to follow
every violence, patiently cataloging and
filing all the sawdust that’s gotten up
in its face, is what I meant.

-:-

So, you’re probably wondering, “who pissed in this guy’s cheerios?” so let me explain. I wrote this, more or less, in the middle of the night a few days ago, after arriving home the previous evening to find the sprawling live oak in the alley behind the garage had suffered a kind of vivisection at the hands of the power utility. They had removed a third of its grand canopy, right down the middle, leaving it splayed in its remaining two thirds, parted now to make way for the high voltage wires. It now looks like a midshipman flagging a desperate semaphore. Mayday!

For the last two years, Cooper’s Hawks have nested in that oak, and now I can finally see the nest on the edge of the newly opened cavity. I’d seen one just that morning fly down the alley and pause in that tree, making that ca-ca-cawing call that I associate with courtship rituals for that bird. Well, I doubt they will keep a nest so exposed to the sky. The good news is that the migrant songbirds that come through here in good numbers will be easier to spot and photograph.

Anyway, that’s why I’m feeling chipper.

You can see the hawk’s nest in the upper right corner. There’s another large oak down the alley that they frequent, so perhaps they will nest there.


Common Yellowthroat

Here’s a yellowthroat I caught in the aforementioned oak a few years back. The tree has been a real bird magnet and I sure hope it remains that way.

Acres Are a Toss Away

we are never quite
where we are, never long
for the ungrabbed hat
acres are a toss away

from somebody’s grazing lot
from every pressing affair

the hallway leads
the bell rings

If a thing didn’t last
what was it, back when
it was everlasting?

we keep a second
set of books, an eye
out for the prospects

but the dusty warehouse
where the heart undresses
is an unbreathable atmosphere

we hold our breath
make quick little visits

Wonder, Full of

more and more I am less and less
loss and increase, rushing the doors
each by the other’s entrance

a deluded equilibrium sprayed
through the stencil of things known to be

cash or credit, movement or dead still
path with mantra, a mass with a host
mastery of the enclosing nesting doll

in preverbal childhood, before a self
got on to it, on a blanket in the yard
you pointed and said “da” in wonder
it could have been anything

now I wonder why we can’t leave
wonder alone, and when we point and
open our mouths, out comes

a meaning, a stillborn concoction
landing with a thud

-:-


Myself, 1955, aged eight months.