Monday, January 10, 2011

"Extinct Birds"

           Our annual New Year’s brunch at the Station House CafĂ©.
No hike since it was a greyfog rainfall day. I saw the year’s
first snowy egret, my adopted totem,in the mudflats along Hiway 1.
There were one, two, three, and more egrets, Great and Snowy,
plus willets and sandpipers, kingfishers and a blue heron.

Shorebirds  living on the border between
land and sea   inhabiting all three   
air and water  and earth 
Brancusi birds   slim scuptures of flight

I had been reading Janet Frame’s Toward Another Summer, where she discovers that she is a migratory bird,  a godwit perhaps, and knows she will return to her home in New Zealand, when I saw this headline:

                                                               “ Good godwit!
                                                     Bird flies 6,000 miles nonstop
                                                 for eight days to set new record”

                                                                       Minneapolis Star Tribune

No water   no food  nonstop Alaska to New Zealand 
Was it god’s wit to give
this pretty redfeathered waterfowl a bill that long           
appended like the beak on a carnevale mask

I thought I would write
endlessly about that word
My new poems speak of
motherdark   seabreath
Why say more?

“Extinct Birds”
        by Walter Rothschild
        illustrated by J. G. Keulemans
The violet macaw is beautiful
but the sounds of ‘spectacled cormorant’
the hard ‘c’s’ and rounded rhyming o’s
(say it slowly   c-o-r-m-o-r-a-n-t)
launch me into language
on every page

“No known specimen” 

I’m grounded  
trying to find the alphabet
of lost flight
“No known specimen”
The Great Auk and the Madagascar Hawk
The last ones 
                                                  died of indifference                                                    
Now the mere rumor of a remote
sighting would thrill us
If we didn’t ignore
                                                 all but our own music                                                   
would the Carolina parrot
still be singing?

 The lyrebird  
can mimic any sound   perfectly
The call of kookaburra  currawong   
the fall of a branch  the click of a camera
Listen: his latest sound
a chain saw