This post, Mapache, has become part of a larger discussion. Here's a poem by Stafford:
Traveling through the Dark
Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.
from 'Traveling Through The Dark'
and here are some other posts and poems that have been mentioned by others.
On The Hapless Dilettante News this poem is written and available in audio: The Dog by Gerald Stern.
Chris Clarke writes his tale about a Badger and the legacy of death here at Creek Running North.
Butuki of Laughing Knees writes here: an unflinching story that tells the understory of the raccoon I left in the road years ago.
Fall Migration: A Robin
posted by Lisa on 1:58 PM link |
I didnít expect the raccoon to be so heavy. I imagined briefly that Iíd slip my hands underneath and easily pull her to the side of the road. I expected her weight to spill over the sides of my hands, but instead the body was stiff, unresponsive. At first she seemed immovable, I had to pull on her tail to move her weight onto my right hand, and then slip the left underneath as well. I stood, then, her dead body held in my outstretched arms, an offering to the cars speeding past.
Her fur was coarse and full, her body unmarred and beautiful--only some blood at her head revealed the cause of her death. Remarkable that a blow so deadly would leave so little visible damage. I couldnít look directly at her face as I lifted her and carried her away from the road, then laid her down in some new green grass, far enough onto the shoulder that she couldnít be struck again.
Iíd seen the dead raccoon on my way into town, body lying completely in the other lane of the road, a fresh kill. The mornings always brings newly dead corpses to the roadways: deer, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, and ocassionally foxes and coyotes. A local artist has taken to throwing bought bouquets of pink roses over the bodies of slain deer on the roadsides. I didnít know who was doing it, until I saw an advertisement for an art show featuring photographs of the enshrined carcasses. The volume of accumulated dead is whatís most disturbing. Day after day they fall.
You hear people say that there are two types of deer: those that stay stock still as you drive by, and those that remain unmoving until the very last moment, when they panic and run out in front of your car. You never know which type youíre dealing with, until it happens. You might only encounter the former, for months on end, and forget that any one deer might dart out, in a burst of unearthly speed, in a mad race that it canít win.
The rule is that youíre not supposed to stop suddenly or to swerve. Youíre supposed to keep driving straight ahead, to protect other cars, other drivers, and yourself. But, of course, you don't really do that. Instinctively, Iíll do anything to avoid a deer or a raccoon, or a squirrel, or any animal big enough to register a sickening bump under the wheel of my truck. One friend of mine killed a deer and was haunted by it for a year. She cried often, and slept little.
Years ago, I worked in a restaurant down the coast in Stinson Beach. For a couple of weeks, I drove my friend Mario home to Point Reyes Station, and he taught me the names in Spanish of the animals we saw during our drive. Sorillo, skunk. Soro, fox. Venado, deer. Mapache, racoon. In the years that followed, Iíd say those names out loud each night in wonder that I was lucky enough to live where animals still lived, and in the joy of naming familiar objects with unfamiliar words, and in warm remembrance of the friend who taught me to say them.
One night, driving around the twists and turns of Highway One as it follows the Bolinas Lagoon, I struck a raccoon. I donít remember how it happened, I donít think I knew even then. I stopped the car on the empty highway and looked back in my rear view mirror. The racoon was injured, but not dead. As I watched, he tried to drag himself out of the road. He wasnít making any progress, and I knew he wouldnít live. I thought that if I had any decency in me, I should turn my car around and hit him again, to end his pain. But I couldnít bring myself to do it. Finally, in an act of self-preservation, I put my foot to the gas and left him to his fate.
Iíve thought about that racoon many times in the intervening years whenever Iíve thought about the will to survive. I donít really know what happened to him, whether he lived a successful life with a partially healed leg, or whether he died alone in the road that night, but I'm tortured by the image of his struggle.
Barry Lopez directs us to honor all animals that we find by taking them out of the road. It seems like the right thing to do. Iíve never done it, but Iíve thought about it many times. Iíve wondered how heavy the animals would be, and if Iíd have the nerve for it. Iíve tried to imagine myself pulling my car to the side of the road, then going back, against the oncoming cars. Would I have the nerve to touch a dead animal, and if I did, would I have the strength to move it out of the road? I had great affinity for the idea, but the physicality of the act repelled me.
Today, I didnít think about it. I saw the raccoon in the road, and saw how close the tires of the speeding cars were to her head; knew that I couldnít let her become smashed into the road, obliterated and unrecognizable, a darkening stain of fur and blood. I pulled over and walked back against traffic, looking ahead but not into the windows of the cars that passed me. I stood over her for a time, letting some cars go by, none of them slowing for us.
Finally, I reached down and grabbed her. I didnít want to pull on her tailóit seemed disrespectful, but so did any touch at all. Once Iíd grabbed her, though, I got the hang of it, the ease of moving her out of harmís way.
Afterwards, I felt the weight and the wildness of her; in the car I let my dog smell my hands, which were full of her.
posted by Lisa on 7:57 AM link |
Often a crumb on my plate at the last
looks at me. On my tongue like a snowflake
it melts for awhile--and splendor discovers
itself in this world out of such quiet things.
Those times, anything breathed on or thought
about, even for an instant, is bread.
At the corner just below the streetlight
there's a branch twisted by the wind. Surrounded
by darkness, hardly surviving, that branch
waits to wave in its yellow cone
when anyone passes and looks up. For years
it lives by such notice, eyes and the sun.
Strange--things neglected begin to appeal
to a part inside us. It is called the soul.
These times, it lives on less and less.
from A Scripture of Leaves
posted by Lisa on 7:32 AM link |
From What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics by Adrienne Rich, discussing the responsibility of the poetry "establishment", during a climate of heightened repression (after the first so-called Gulf War), says...
They can be cautious, acquiescent, play it safe in a climate of political instability and riskiness, throw away what power they have, and make the work of repression much easier. Or they can become radicalized--in their vision of what a truly American poetry might be and is becoming, and in their understanding of the political meanings of art, and of how to use the resources they control. As a society in turmoil, we are going to see more--and more various--attempts to simulate order through repression; and art is a historical target for such efforts. A distaste for the political dimensions of art, in this time and place, is a dangerous luxury.
Just what is the power that art has? Is the pure fact of it enough to be dissension, or must it's points be thrust like daggers in particular soft concerns that get people thinking in new ways? Here's a puzzling example of, not poetry, but an older art, that disunited an enemy force:
"Chinese Acrobatics Through the Ages" (p. 8), by Fu Qifeng, gives a reference
from "Xu Wugui" (Chapter 24 in "Zhuang Zi") that "Yi Liao of Shinan juggled
balls, and the conflict between two houses was eliminated." The author goes
on to tell us about Xiong Yiliao of the Chu State. "Once, in a battle between
the states of Chu and Song, the troops of the two sides were confronting each
other in a fight at close quarters. Yiliao appeared in front of the Chu troops
and calmly, in the face of the enemy's axes and spears, juggled nine balls at
the same time. His superb performance stupefied the officers and the warriors.
The Song troops fled helter-skelter without fighting and the Chu troops won a
complete victory." This was either during the Spring and Autumn (770-476 B.C.)
or the Warring States (475-221 B.C.) periods. --from juggling.org
Of course, this could point to the power of superstition rather than art, but one assumes that the warriors had seen juggling prior to this battlefield ocassion, and perhaps, instead, were overcome with the audacity of the enemy to create in the face of fear.
posted by Lisa on 6:52 AM link |
Reading Time: 1 Minute 26 Seconds
The fear of poetry is the
fear: mystery and fury of a midnight street
of windows whose low voluptuous voice
issues, and after that there is no peace.
That round waiting moment in the
theatre: curtain rises, dies into the ceiling
and here is played the scene with the mother
bandaging a revealed sonís head. The bandage is torn off.
Curtain goes down. And here is the moment of proof.
That climax when the brain acknowledges the world,
all values extended into the blood awake.
Moment of proof. And as they say Brancusi did,
building his bird to extend through soaring air,
as Kafka planned stories that draw to eternity
through time extended. And the climax strikes.
Love touches so, that months after the look of
blue stare of love, the footbeat on the heart
is translated into the pure cry of birds
following air-cries, or poems, the new scene.
Moment of proof. That strikes long after act.
They fear it. They turn away, hand up palm out
fending off moment of proof, the straight look, poem.
The prolonged wound-consciousness after the bulletís shot.
The prolonged love after the look is dead,
the yellow joy after the song of the sun.
from What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics
by Adrienne Rich
posted by Lisa on 8:28 AM link |
If it's true that everything there is to learn, can be learned from nature, then show me where in nature difficult choices are made, or where difficult things occur and loss follows or else fate is embraced.
Tides ebb and flow, and a tree loses her leaves in the fall, no matter how much she is in love with them. What if the pine were to withhold her cones, not let them fall to the ground? What if she decided that having them near her more truly fills her heart than letting them drop?
I suppose some would tell me that the lesson of nature is that fate must simply be, and that I must learn to accept loss without regret. But if I'm not to feel regret when the leaves turn and fall, then it follows that I shouldn't feel joy when they emerge green again. That can't be right.
Does a tree suffer silently? Perhaps not. But certainly we suffer for them, otherwise why do the seasons evoke such astounding feelings in us. Each day is a cruel cycle of exquisite sunrises and sweetly painful sunsets. We see our lives, our hearts, our dreams mirrored in the daily study of light given and light taken away. An open heart learns there.
posted by Lisa on 8:20 AM link |
Mark Rucker, a fellow dramarian from my high school days, and the brother of one of my best friends, has directed a feature film. It's called 'Die Mommy Die,' a romping, campy, murder-mystery spoof. It's been released as part of the Sundance Film Series and is playing at the Metreon in San Francisco, as well as at 9 other theaters in New York and elsewhere.
It's extremely funny: cultish and camp. If you love film, especially movies from the 40's through the 60's, I recommend 'Die.' It stars Charles Busch (who also wrote the screenplay), in drag, playing the leading lady, and features Jason Priestley as a hip gigolo, Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) as the maid, and Philip Baker Hall as the put-upon husband.
With Busch dragging as Angela Arden, remarkably like Kathleen Turner crossed with John Malkovich, the movie requires that you completely submit to the camp premise or don't even bother to watch. I read a completely clueless review that wondered why the children never noticed that mommy looks remarkably like a man. Hello!?! Once you've surrendered to the fun, there are so many delights. Pay attention to the lighting send-ups. My friend D. loved one dinner table melodrama where as Angela stands up the room light drops except for a small spot on her eyes, and I particularly loved a stairway scene where the wrought iron railing is in high shadow against the wall, perfect except that the shadow heads in the opposite direction from the stairs.
The biggest laugh of the night came late in the action, when revealing lame movie conventions reached its peak as one murderous character dumps a handful of undissolvable capsules into an iced drink, stirs a couple of times, and successfully kills their victim. The best thing about the movie is that it doesn't stay strictly in the past, lampooning cheesy Hollywood films, it brings high sexual farce into the mix with modern dialogue and sensibility that the old films weren't allowed to indulge.
The result is sexy and fun. Afterwards, do what we did--eat Peruvian food at Limon in the Mission District. We enjoyed ceviched halibut and ceviched tuna appetizers with drinks.
posted by Lisa on 8:06 AM link |
While I was away winter arrived. My last real entry--before my life erupted in activity that took me away from field notes--says I was swimming in the moonlight. That had been my second swim of the day. I wore a bikini into the water and the sun as I stood on shore was hot on my body. But while I was away winter arrived.
I was at a workshop near Gualala. The camp is set in a coastal mountain valley along the Gualala River, about 10 miles inland. Cold weather hit the morning we drove from here up Highway One. The sun dazzled between once-in-a-while showers, through dark clouds parting, through brilliant blue sky. We fought the cold all weekend, and fought the smoky fireplace in the lodge where our meetings were held all day. I broke in my winter clothes and my winter attitude: an energetic, foot-stamping, hand-blowing, whirling dervish, thrilled-to-be-chilled, wood-burning, candle-lighting, hot-tea-to-warm-my-hands self.
By the time I arrived back home, I was reconciled to the change in the weather. I've accomodated my style. I'm geared up for early sunsets and long, dark evenings, and to the interior journeys of winter. Instead of checking the tide logs for high tide swims, I'm looking now for low tide walks. I'm turning my attention back to birds, and to the muted light of this side of time.
posted by Lisa on 7:23 AM link |
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