This is another square iPhone photograph I took on the day before Thanksgiving.
When you take pictures with the iPhone, it records your location;
you can find out later where you were, by looking at the information
displayed on Google Maps in Picasa.
It wouldn't be a great idea if one were a spy
or trying to keep a secret romance secret.
But I loved finding out later that this is Cordelia Slough
in Northern California as viewed from Highway 680, looking east.
Looks like it might be a good place to go birding during migration season.
I was quite struck with the way the plumes of these grasses
arranged themselves so gracefully and caught the light so beautifully.
And by the scattered little gray clouds.
OF WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, 1997
Not having been asked to write the inaugural poem,
even though I am from Arkansas, I will take what’s here,
the birds at the feeder, not saving the world but only
being it, each kind of bird taking up its career
to fill out some this-or-that of creation on a small scale,
like this poem nobody asked for and few will hear.
Cold birds, eating extra for warmth, finely detailed
to catch the sun. Ridged out in friction-gear,
they jerk from position to position, as if the eye’s
first impressions have been caught before the brain
smooths them out. The chickadee clamps a precise
seed and tosses its shell, nothing amazing.
To start up a fanfare would be to see it as specimen,
to deflect one’s attention from the exact life performing
its dip, crack, toss. The long beak of the wren
is extended by a thin white stripe traced full-swing
down the head, so the wren seems half beak. I need
to get these lines, delicate as a Chinese painting.
Any poem would quiver with delight, with the chickadee
in it, or wren, but wouldn’t want to do anything
about it. That’s the hard thing about writing a poem
that’s supposed to inspire the country at a crucial time,
that’s supposed to hammer like a woodpecker. No one
could hear, with its hammering red, black, white!
It doesn’t bode well for the quiet poem, or the insect
inside the bark, or the old tree crumbling to dust
inside itself while the public word tree holds it erect.
Still, I think when the bleachers no longer rise august
along Pennsylvania Avenue and the meandering ocean
of confetti has been swept up, it is good to cross a bridge
in your mind, to something earlier, oblivious to emotion,
something like wrens going on inside the language.
Breathing In, Breathing Out, Anhinga Press, 2002, pages 57-58.
Perhaps this poem appealed to me partly because of all the current noise about a presidential election still more than a year in the future. I'm not saying that the choice of US President isn't important. But there needs to be some limit (like they have in many other places!) on the sheer length of time, energy, emotional energy and money and human resources of all kinds that are expended on this one thing when there are so many things that need careful attention and repair.
Your TASK might be to imagine being invited to deliver a poem for some important event, and interweave your thoughts about that event and its consequences into a poem with the natural happenings in the place where you find yourself living now. Fleda's birds are those same birds that visit my feeder in Emmet County, Michigan, but you may be doing your birding near Cordelia Slough, a tidal slough, where the steelhead swim upstream to spawn. Arranging your poem, like this one, into quatrains will add to its necessary form and seriousness.
Oh, joy! I have recently discovered that Fleda has a blog, like this one! Here is the link to the post in which she discusses writing on demand as a useful technique to generate something you can work with to make a poem.