Monday, August 13, 2012

Flying With the Swallows

Flying with the Swallows
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
[See Medusa's Facebook page for a new photo album
by Cynthia: Cooling Off in Santa Cruz.]

—Howard Nemerov

Across the millstream below the bridge
Seven blue swallows divide the air
In shapes invisible and evanescent,
Kaleidoscopic beyond the mind’s
Or memory’s power to keep them there.

“History is where tensions were,”
“Form is the diagram of forces.”
Thus, helplessly, there on the bridge,
While gazing down upon those birds—
How strange, to be above the birds!—
Thus helplessly the mind in its brain
Weaves up relation’s spindrift web,
Seeing the swallows’ tails as nibs
Dipped in invisible ink, writing…

Poor mind, what would you have them write?
Some cabalistic history
Whose authorship you might ascribe
To God? to Nature? Ah, poor ghost,
You’ve capitalized your Self enough.
That villainous William of Occam
Cut out the feet from under that dream
Some seven centuries ago.
It’s taken that long for the mind
To waken, yawn and stretch, to see
With opened eyes emptied of speech
The real world where the spelling mind
Imposes with its grammar book
Unreal relations on the blue
Swallows. Perhaps when you will have
Fully awakened, I shall show you
A new thing: even the water
Flowing away beneath those birds
Will fail to reflect their flying forms,
And the eyes that see become as stones
Whence never tears shall fall again.

O swallows, swallows, poems are not
The point. Finding again the world,
That is the point, where loveliness
Adorns intelligible things
Because the mind’s eye lit the sun.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

A long climb to the saddle—ventana,
Ramon would call it—between watersheds,
a dusty trail flecked with granite.
My dog's saddlebags are full of hikers' litter.
Granola wrappers, one dried-out, muddy
sock; a length of twine; pair of sunglasses.
From a fire-circle by the lake, a frying
pan without a handle. I sling it in a Woodsy-
Owl bag over my shoulder. One more
reminder of my fellow man. We haven't met
a hiker since we crossed the divide.
Now, a thousand vertical feet of switchbacks
to the river, down a snake-winding path
between volcanic peaks. Not a human
sound. How many men once made a home
here, mining the mountain—then left
the canyon to its sun and stars. To wind.
My dog lifts her nose, sniffs the air.
She sparkles. Her eyes say “someone's
to be found.” She lies. There's not another
soul for twenty miles. She's crittering—
shoving her head deep in sagebrush.
Ground squirrel? Who can I trust, if not my
dog? And here, tucked under gray-
green leaves, an OD-green commando
sweater. It still holds human scent.
One more mystery the canyon keeps in its
long memory. Its river, a moving well
of stars. Its ages of rock and man.

—Robert Louis Stevenson

Swallows travel to and fro,
And the great winds come and go,
And the steady breezes blow,
Bearing perfume, bearing love.
Breezes hasten, swallows fly,
Towered clouds forever ply,
And at noonday, you and I
See the same sunshine above.

Dew and rain fall everywhere,
Harvests ripen, flowers are fair,
And the whole round earth is bare
To the moonshine and the sun;
And the live air, fanned with wings,
Bright with breeze and sunshine, brings
Into contact distant things,
And makes all the countries one.

Let us wander where we will,
Something kindred greets us still;
Something seen on vale or hill
Falls familiar on the heart;
So, at scent or sound or sight,
Severed souls by day and night
Tremble with the same delight—
Tremble, half the world apart.

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Here is the dilemma
Fear the inevitable
No, no notice
So, So sorry

Keep your memories
Deep down a dark path
Shield your eyes from the
Field of glaring sunflowers

Soon you will become a
Goon, moron, idiot
Take your pick
Fake fit in

Star of the stage
Car careens
Out of control
Doubtful survival

Rhymes, iambs, meter
Times have changed
Go with the
Flow down river

—Pedro Serrano

Gripping wires like clothes pegs,
small seagulls made of wood,
agile and tiny against the brutal blue,
bound to midday, they fall, one then another,
moving clothes, arms, smiles,
white breasts, black hoods,
pointed wings aligned, minimal agitation,
until they all fly off but one—
which takes wing then flits back,
like a swift goodbye,
breaking free of the morning.
The wires stay put, the sky in intense abandon,
like a Sunday village wedding,
then it's done.

(The literal translation of this poem was made by Gwen MacKeith; the final translated version is by Sarah Maguire.)


Today's LittleNip:

I stretch out for a nap in my little hut.
In the fields, frogs chant their songs
And the birds in the bamboo grove sing along.




for photos of swallows' nest and other
wonderful bird things.