Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stuffed Marten in Window LIght

     This marten has probably been dead for a long time, but he still can manage quite an arrogant stare as he stands near the door in the R & R Cabin breakfast and lunch eatery in downtown Alanson, Michigan. He's not so much a greeter--one doesn't notice him on the way in---as a sayer of goodbyes. You cannot miss him on the way out.

I have gotten used to the amount of taxidermy on view in restaurants in Northern Michigan through 20-some years of summer visits here, but it isn't common in other places I have lived. I was caught by the shaft of sunlight on his face, and by how much he resembled a very small bear. I've never seen a marten, even in a zoo. It's haunting, thinking about life and death.

Here is another poem from The Book of Luminous Things, one of my favorite anthologies, which I describe at the end of another post here.

The editor, Nobel Poet Czeslaw Milosz, writes a headnote for each poem, which I include here. In this case he has written about the poet, Kenneth Rexroth.

Kenneth Rexroth 1905-1982

Kenneth Rexroth, who used to live in Japan, wrote toward the end of his life a parable on Buddha, a poem of far-reaching nonattachment.

Buddha took some Autumn leaves
In his hand and asked
Ananda if these were all
The red leaves there were.
Ananda answered that it
Was Autumn and leaves
Were falling all about them,
More than could ever
Be numbered. So Buddha said,
"I have given you
A handful of truths. Besides
These there are many
Thousands of other truths, more
Than can ever be numbered.
                                                        ---Kenneth Rexroth, page 287

I like the formality the use of capital letters gives this poem.  I also like the way  the phrase "more than can ever be numbered" is used twice and spread across two lines in two different ways.

Tonight, I am thinking it probably doesn't matter if I approve of, or understand, hunting and the wish to preserve a simulacrum of an animal in this way. Things are the way they are, and here stands the marten in sunlight from the plate-glass windows in this particular small town in America. Where are you tonight? And have you changed your mind about anything, important or trivial???  Sleep well.

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