I am not at large. This morning I’m at small.
I stay inside, as inside as can be,
and I sing from songs the words I can recall.
Since I’m inside I sing them silently
but the jackdaws lipread and one takes offence
at lyrics he imagines aimed at him.
He tells a heron who becomes incensed
so much she tells the seagulls, asking them
to foul my sundeck next time they fly by.
I bribe the gulls with ginger snaps and gin.
I remind them jackdaws never are their friends.
Machiavelli’s Prince has taught me how to win
but my victory’s static, Pyrrhic. All take wing
but me. I’m grounded, and can’t even sing.
I play with memes I cannot understand
the same way I watch jackdaws fly: amazed.
A small idea grows quickly out of hand.
Reality’s all right when it is phased
but this morning I’m afflicted with entire
and edifying concepts I can’t grasp.
Whole universes soldered on a wire
of probabilities fall off voids and clasp
unto each other. Objects, each at rest,
have no precise locations I can find.
And though I’m sure I can, I am hard pressed
to prove, because it is false, that I’ve defined
‘at rest’ correctly. The memes have moved away,
as have the jackdaws. Go outside, then. Play.
‘I am looking at God,’ said the squirrel, ‘and at the Profligate Panda.’
The jackdaw and I enquired did the rodent feel well.
‘As well,’ he replied, ‘as the golden-egg goose of Uganda.
‘As well,’ he went on, ‘as the soil-cleansing thistles that dwell
on slights they infer from the tales that parishioners tell.’
‘This is serious,’ I said. The jackdaw agreed and surmised
that the squirrel had been maddened from being too often surprised
by random events till his brain had been seized by the odd
erroneous idea that the phenomena of nature disguised
personal messages to him from the Panda, or maybe from God.
The turkey that lurked in the lee of the lemonade stand
through the hum of the summer, and most of the autumn, till now,
appears on my plate, and surprised — existentially here.
I’ve had a lot on my plate, but a livid live turkey’s absurd.
Should not slaughter, dissection, and plucking precede being served
like a badminton cock, or a locker-room sock that has swerved
through the air with a flare lit to guide it. I guess I digress.
I open my eyes. Tom Turkey stands still on my plate
and he stands for his conviction that we should, like he does, eat bugs
to stay lean, and less mean, and friendlier to our friends the birds.
He flies off and leaves me with crickets, ants, mealworms, and beans.
I know, when I see the white cattle egrets
tending the late December fields,
grazing like guinea fowl, gyring like gulls.
I know, when the rains drive straight across,
rinsing blood from the memories,
drenching the log where I cut back thorns
to sit and watch the birds and rains.
Behind the cattle egrets, red broad cows
stand down the horizon,
russet frames for miniatures
of empty portraits in the sky.
Portraits as troubling and graciously vague
as those of long-dead grandsons made
on future daughters by drunken soldiers
killed before next payday.
I know, but know a little rinsing
will irritate me more than cure:
the welcome of an opened door
spoiled by anxious questions.
The red cows turn their horns toward me.
Thorns fragile enough to break
on my finger’s bone, but not before,
slash back at my knife and hand.
– – + + + – – –
I let myself inside the field.
The grass, felt-pressed by sheep,
springs up around my ancient boots
mimicking marches I remember.
Marches like those being made
in Grozny on this Boxing Day
where the only wholly silence is
that of the usually vocal West.
The evil empire bombs soldiers
drunk on ‘kill the infidel,’
a draught drunk in our daughters’ blood
for so many aeons that we are glad
when an empire somewhere draws the line,
then bombs those transfixed on that line flat.
Recording both sides’ transgressions,
gods wish each side good genocide.
I walk the fields the sheep have grazed
and clean my boots in welcome rain.
I thank the gods for Gore-Tex
and pretend to hunt the cattle egrets.
Haze eats the horizon as I stand my watch.
Flocked swallows settle in a second then
flit up into the one remaining swatch
of sky the storm clouds have not painted in.
A woman hangs wet watch to catch the wind.
A yellow duckling bobbles in boats’ wakes
and boys dive where the inner harbour takes
its leave of city and runs to the sea.
The grey comes down as softly as the flakes
of bridge paint that the rust and time set free.
The Drommedaris, built starting in 1540, is a historic fortress tower in Enkhuizen that is now used as a cultural centre and for special events.
(The Bunting’s Aria)
Some years ago I read, I think in Time,
a minister of India, its prime,
had mentioned he liked drinking, mornings, neat,
his urine fresh from, as it were, the teat.
‘Flibbertigibbet,’ I said. ‘It’s time Time’s sued
for passing water tales that wee bit rude.’
The minister left chambers; others fill
his shoes, inserting dry hands in the till.
When Time passed on to buying CNN,
the torch passed to the Sunday Times, wherein
a hack wrote that Mitterrand, the week he died,
enjoyed a meal where he and friends had tried
a table sports event, a biathlon
not needing skis nor skeet but a snuffed ortolan.
They plunged each bird headfirst in Armagnac
then roasted song and body until black.
Eyes watered by his self-imposed scotoma,
each diner cloaked his head to boost aroma
then bit his (the bunting’s) head off, closed his (own) mouth,
throat tight to stop the song from going south.
Each epicure, alone in his own organdie,
filled his mouth (and the ortolan’s) with burgundy
for twenty minutes till the bones were felt
as being up for downing, for heads are slow to melt.