Pink birds and beasts of land and sea: Three poems

Pink birds and beasts of land and sea: Three poems

PINK

Pink Floyd was a flamingo


That flew from the aviary


Leaving birds of a feather


Grounded in their concrete pond.

He lived a bachelor’s life


Out in Great Salt Lake


Feeding on brine shrimp


To maintain his florid color.

The only regional females


Had their wings clipped —

No matter how pink he got


They could not fly to him

He did not fly to them.


For many years he lived


The only of his kind


Among grebes and phalaropes,

A feather-boa fantasy


Of how we might go feral


In our adopted homes


And still be pink and fabulous.

In his honor I have planted


Pink plastic flamingos


Among the orange day lilies


Bright stalks in unmown grass

His great escape called to mind


When my niece went south


To visit two-toned penguins


And sent back a photograph:

One thin rosy colored bird


Soaring above blue glacial ice;


A single pink-fletched arrow


High-flying in pure sky-blue.

 

{NOTE: Pink Floyd was a Chilean flamingo that escaped from Salt Lake City’s Tracy Aviary in 1987 and lived wild at Great Salt Lake, Utah for many years. A proposal to import more Chilean birds in order to establish a great pink flock of Great Salt Lake flamingoes was rejected on the grounds that introduction of non-native species might harm the ecosystem, though it was argued that since flamingo fossils had been found in Utah it would really be species restoration. Pink Floyd was last seen in 2005.}

 

THE RHINOCEROS EATS AN APPLE

"Hélas, je suis un monstre.
 Hélas, jamais je ne deviendrai rhinocéros!" — Eugène Ionesco

When a woman offers you an apple

You never know for sure if it is poisoned

With the draught of eternal sleep,

The black ships of war, or knowledge

Of good and evil, yet it is irresistible,

That lipstick skin, the interior promise

Of juicy sweetness, and so the rhinoceros

Perks forward his strange small ears

And here he comes trotting with a bounce

In his step that is surely a dance, 

Ionesco’s absurdist allegory

Lilting towards her on huge fleshy feet

Armored skin gray as storm clouds

Lit from behind with sunny virility,

Ferocious eyes gleaming in that massive

Boxy head, his whole solid body

Constructed to support the crushing weight

Of those mythological horns

On his nose. He would impale her

If she were not standing behind a fence.

In one hand the woman holds a bucket,

Of apples, in the other a round red

Fruit which she extends through the bars

In her bare hand, never flinching

As the beast comes snuffling, slavering

From it’s wide, soft, pliable mouth,

Toothlessly gentle lips that fold like fabric

Around the offering to eat it in.

How have we mistook the rhino for his horn

And never noticed the kiss of his essence?

 

CETOLOGY

Sometimes on days when work is slow


I take my lunchbox and I go


Down by the People’s Freeway


To the Garden of Modest Bureaucrats

Where I breathe the intoxicating patchouli


Narcissus scent of paperwhites


Planted in the Grove of Inferiority


Complex with Attitude near the statue

Inscribed, “To that sallow Sub Sub Librarian

Whom Melville mentioned in his book

Which is mostly about people chasing whales.”

The Librarian, too, was hunting Leviathan

And met with notable success


Finding him swimming though Genesis, Psalms


Job, Milton, Shakespeare’s plays;


The Marine Mammal Protection Act

Had not yet been written; Whales were prey


To Quakers and cannibals, but soon the bureaucrats


Would come armed with regulations; the whales


Would be saved from pagan harpooneers;

Melville, or at least his doppelganger Ishmael,


Was misguided when he wrote that chapter


Overstating the eternal, unbreathable

Future of these immensely vulnerable creatures,

Now even the oceans have become too small


To absorb the wrath of those damned whalers


Who must forever blame something


For whatever limb it was they lost at sea

While the Librarian sat calmly compiling


Folio, octavo, duodecimo of cetology


Steadfastly refusing to be drowned


When all hands on the ship went down.

 


The author answers

THE WILD CULTURE SCRIBBLER'S QUESTIONNAIRE


What is your first memory and what does it tell you about your life at that time and your life at this time?

I have a particularly vivid early memory of trying to walk along a narrow curb in a pair of high-heeled shoes.  I fell and skinned my knee.  Now that I am a grownup I own lots high-heeled dance shoes and almost never fall down.

Can you name a handful of artists in your field, or other fields, who have influenced you — who come to mind immediately?

Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Ruth St. Denis, Patti Smith, Alwin Nikolai, Edward Lear, Robert Smithson, Andy Warhol; and more locally, Terry Tempest Williams, Utah Phillips, Linda C. Smith, Mary Donahue, Sandy Brunvand.

Where did you grow up, and did that place and your experience of it help form your sense about place and the environment in general?

Salt Lake City, Utah where I still live is on the eastern edge of the Great Basin.  The hypersaline Great Salt Lake is hostile to most life forms, but is paradoxically critical habitat for hemispheric populations of migratory birds—an apt metaphor for the entire state. Utah is about 60% public lands, so the experience of living here is to be engaged in a constant battle over who gets to use that land and what for.

If you were going away on a very long journey and you could only take four books — one poetry, one fiction, one non-fiction, one literary criticism  — what would they be?

The honest answer, because this is what I actually do-- I’d take a non-fiction guidebook and whatever was sitting around unread on my bookshelves. If I were leaving tomorrow the poetry would be Allison Hawthorne Demming, “Genius Loci,”; The fiction, David Pace, “Dream House on Golan Drive,”; the literary criticism Craig Dworkin, “No Medium.”  I haven’t read any of them yet so I can’t comment on whether they are any good.

What was your most keen interest between the ages of 10 and 12?

Reading, of course. I especially liked Edgar Rice Burroughs and Mad Magazine. 

At what point did you discover your ability with poetry?

In high school I won a poetry contest. It went to my head. 

Do you have an ‘engine’ that drives your artistic practice, and, if so, can you comment on it?

Much of my poetry is triggered by small moments of magic that seem to indicate unseen spiritual forces. I’m also driven to write by a childish sense of outrage that the world is not fair, but if all goes well that part is entirely edited out of the final version.

If you were to meet a person who seriously wants to do work in your field — someone who admires and resonates with the type of work you do, and they clearly have real talent — and they asked you for some general advice, what would that be?

Find out who your people are and figure out how to get your work to them.  There are readers somewhere who will be delighted with what you are writing.

Do you have a current question or preoccupation that you could share with us?

I’m currently obsessed with the word “re-localize” which seems to have so many implications.   Also, I’m trying to learn to play a button accordion.

What does the term ‘wild culture’ mean to you?

1) Culture that arises directly from the human spirit rather than from corporate and commercial marketing;

2) Culture experienced with corporeal people outside of the technosphere;

3) Culture respectful of non-human entities;

4) Nearly any form of dancing.

If you would like to ask yourself a final question, what would it be?

Why don’t you quit your day job?

 

 

AMY BRUNVAND is a librarian, part-time nature mystic and monthly contributor to Catalyst Magazine in Salt Lake City, Utah. She lives in the Jordan River watershed at the edge of the Great Basin.

Image credits: top, middle, bottom

 

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