Opposite the Eternal

On fleeting wonders.

An abundance of parachutes glow nightly in the dark waters

before the volcano. Open, close, open. Like the petals of a cherry blossom,

someone says, an invitation to remember

what is fleeting, the blooming magnificence of wild renewal,

before breeze fells them like blankets of snow.

***

Inspired by this article about the recent influx of luminescent jellyfish in Japan’s Yojirougahama waterway.

Flesh of the Empire

Listening in the wake of colonization by noise.

When they came for the silence of our sacred, the colonizers hid their weapons behind badges of efficiency. Speed! They said, by way of greeting, planting flags in the flesh of our flesh. Waking from sedation, we took them in, saying, Mine! rather than Out!  

After that, movement meant aggravating wounds. A body learns to stay, shouting, Here I am! Forget the still, small voice. We thought at first of walking to one another with the stories we wove, but the invaders caught our song on the wind, and blocked that, too––for a time, anyway. Trespass of the mind became a punishable offense.

Consider concrete and a moving substance, how it alters the path. The shape of a river changes. You get wind tunnels. The dammed river becomes a reservoir, its former trajectory a wasteland.  Then what?

The living will move. What this does to memory remains, as the saying goes, to be seen.

We looked and listened. Hands reached and bones breathed. There was a whisper beneath the gale, saying, Rise. No one was watching, and we heard.

The Elephant Listener

Sounds like throbbing.

Strange years: two zoos, one circus, five nations,

and these notebooks wrapped in towels when I left.

Back home, their presence recollected: through the 

rafters, the doorways, in bed. There are no indifferent

observers here, for water tastes always of the pipes.

Only a fool attempts to read their minds, and there

is no one here who has not tried.

***

With phrases from the preface of Katy Payne’s Silent Thunder.

In Loving Attention

It’s in the details.

I have heard of counting worlds in grains of sand, and the angels on the head of a pin, but Look. Notice this toucan smaller than a pencil tip, mouth open, the articulated wings, spreading. Attention to such detail, in this moment, is as an act of radical love.  It began with a sense of awe, the artist explains, at the body of an insect. It was the magnificent fragility that moved her. There is no way to do this, she says, except by accepting the storm of tremors in the heart and hand, the sandstorm of breath against dust. Everything cracks on this scale, she says, and flies when you cut, and all you are doing is making and remaking, twig by twig.

***

Inspired by (and using found phrases from) Sara Barnes’ MyModernMet article “Artist Carves Impossibly Small Bird Sculptures You Need a Microscope To Fully Appreciate” about the work of Marie Cohydon.

Histories

Elegy for the erased.

Sure, it all seems impossible today, but remember. Once in our wandering we moved in search of a strange beast, something misplaced while we played in and out of schoolyards, a chimera of childhood heroes and the nightmares they would slay––next time, and again. And again.

Remember, forget. Here is the mystery, unsolved, and there, the legend, the remains buried beneath the statues of famous men. Once an ancient voyage, and the albatross, too. Imagine. What’s this one now, here? A gossamer dream, true fictions among make-believe facts. Look, we are looking.

Here, the old mine shaft. Who put that mirror there?

About Face

Veiling and unveiling.

Notice a center in the chaos, a face gathered in the netted folds.

You need a frame to hold it. To find the frame, first be hollow.

Wait in emptiness, then select materials. From? Where you are.

Notice the changing light: solid fluid, transparent form,

shapes like clouds, like smoke. Face them.

Notes:

Inspired by the artist Benjamin Shine’s series of face sculptures in tulle fabric, as described in this MyModernMet article I found this morning. 

Past Visions of the Future Present

Artists of the past envisioned us riding whale buses, fishing for seagulls, playing underwater croquet, and dropping fire from the sky.

Over a century ago, the artists drew visions of today. Look.

They have us us commuting via underwater buses driven by harnessed whales, while the ladies in their dresses don scuba gear for an afternoon of underwater sport. Apparently, by now we are so bored with underwater discovery that all we can think to do down there is play, of all games, croquet. To do her toilette in preparation for such an event, Madame takes a seat in a special chair. One machine buffs her feet, another her nails, while the arms of yet another behind and beside her get to work on her hair and face. It seems to be taken for granted that after a century of progress, such matters will continue to be Madame’s chief concern.

There are special cars for battle. Also torpedo planes, ariel combat. War imagery, it seems, was most accurate.

Going to the theatre? Let’s take an aero-cab! Firefighters wear wings like bats and the postman flies the mail in the posture of one of those dragon-riding children from popular films. To go out for an afternoon ride might mean saddling a giant seahorse. Children don scuba-gear to fish for seagulls above.

Farming would be a matter of controlling machines from a central location. The man at the gears might survey the vast acres being worked and never glimpse a human form. There would be homes on wheels, rolling through the countryside. Clothing would be printed, and children wearing wings would make a game of robbing an eagle’s nest.

***

Notes:

 “A 19th Century Vision of the Year 2000” featured on Public Domain Review highlights the images created by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists, produced for the 1900 world exhibit in Paris. They would most likely have been lost, had Isaac Asimov not chanced upon a set in 1986, which he published, with commentary, in his book Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000.

Gathering

Consider what is cloaked in story.

My bread prepared, time calls. The ship is leaving port. Consider the surface like a poet’s fable.

Consider also what is cloaked in story: truth behind the ornament of fiction, Orpheus’s lyre taming nature as wisdom over the cruel heart.

Then consider discovery, the possibility that a reader might know transfiguration. Last, beyond the senses, what a soul may know when it leaves: no womb beyond the elements, no warmth without cold, nor word without silence of the beginning and the end.

No single sense, but senses. No goat song, foul at the end. Give me instead a tragic beginning, the known world all fire. Then, let me follow and welcome me home.

Inspired by (and borrowing phrases from) Dante’s Il Convivo, as translated by Richard H. Lansing.

In Bird News

This morning, I am heartened by the parrots.

“We proclaim human intelligence to be morally valuable per se because we are human. If we were birds, we would proclaim the ability to fly as morally valuable per se. If we were fish, we would proclaim the ability to live underwater as morally valuable per se. But apart from our obviously self-interested proclamations, there is nothing morally valuable per se about human intelligence.”  – Gary L. Francione

This morning, I am heartened by the parrots. First, it’s Bruce, a New Zealand kea with a severe disability, who has fashioned his own prosthetic. Bruce is missing most of his upper beak, which is essential for preening, which removes parasites and dirt from feathers. Researchers watching Bruce observed that he was not simply enamored with pebbles in a random manner. He only picked them up to preen. Unlike other birds interacting with stones for other reasons, Bruce only picked up pebbles of a specific size. He’d fit these between his tongue and lower beak when he preened. No other kea did this. It was his own idea, they concluded. Upon publication of these findings, some asked the scientists why they had not given Bruce a proper prosthetic. He doesn’t need one, they answered.

Also, in an experiment involving trading tokens for treats, African grey parrots have been demonstrating a remarkable tendency to help one another, even when there is no obvious benefit to the helper. When one parrot had the tokens, but no access to the treats, he would pass the tokens to the bird beside him, even if the other was a stranger. The other bird could trade the tokens for treats. Repeating the experiment with other species, researchers found the Blue-headed macaws to be more selfish, perhaps because they live in smaller, unchanging groups. One of the researchers offered an alternative reading of this disparity in sharing, suggesting that perhaps the selfish species are just not as good at understanding the needs of their mates

I have no small amount of fascination with birds, and reminders back to this often call to mind a passage from Terry Tempest Williams: “Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated” (from When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice)Amen.

Notes

I discovered a report about the study published in The Journal of Scientific Reports, “Self-care tooling innovation in a disabled kea” through a link in this New York Times article by Nicholas Bakalar, which in turn led me to this one on African grey parrots by Elizabeth Preston.

Gary L. Francione has raised interesting questions about the way that current practices in what passes for animal rights legislation tend only to reinforce systemic hierarchies that treat animals as property. Distinguishing between rights and welfare of animals, Francione has argued that the single most important right of animals that should be understood, is the right not to be treated as property.

More bird-themed posts:

For the Birds

Nest

Flight Paths

Pigeon Spectrum

Mirror, Mirror

On Service: An Allegory

They did not turn their faces from the landscape in the dragon’s gaping maw.

When it came time to fight the dragon, one among them shouted, I will not serve.

He would not submit, but others would, to the lies he commissioned, always dressed in righteous robes.

The fighters went on, the one before them saying, I will.

Those moved by this example said nothing. They did not shout. No trumpets blared.

They did not turn their faces from the landscape in the dragon’s gaping maw. Announcing allegiance to another order, they moved with the quiet conviction of visitors to the dying and the sick. Each tended to another’s wounds and they left no one behind. They brought diapers to new mothers and to orphaned children; soap to the unwashed, clothing to those who had been sticking to their own stink. They shielded the unsheltered from the elements, including fire from the righteous. They brought water to those beginning to hallucinate with thirst. Not food, but meals. Not pretend answers, but real questions to real needs, and the mess of it never left them. They wept often under the strain, and knew joy, too. And in the land of fire with the dying in the dragon’s mouth, there was peace because they were there, offering it where they could.