Posts Tagged 'animals'

Belva Sparrow

(Prompts: taken from six books, chosen randomly. Write for 15 minutes.)

Grammar of justice, syntax of mutual aid. Drawing us from tree to tree toward the time and the unknown place where we shall know what it is to arrive. Not one by one, but in passionate clusters, we pressed the grapes to our lips. The room is small, the table plain.Later and older, now we had supper, a little. A grayish bird, the size, perhaps, of two plump sparrows.

 

Two plump sparrows sat on a limb on a tree on a cold winter day. The first sparrow, a philosopher, mumbled continuously about an unknown place.

An unknown place, he grumbled. An unknown place.

The other sparrow, whose name is Belva MacDonald, is given to homilies and humming.

“We shall know what it is to arrive,” says Belva. She sings a soaring and ratcheting song that tells all the songbirds where she is and what she is about.

In passionate clusters, the birds gather in the winter air, feathers inflated and steaming with fast, hot bird circulation. With an average resting heart rate of 500 beats per minute, the finch, the sparrow and the towhee compete for craving; which small bird wants the rose hip enough to take it out of the mouth of others?

Inside the small grey house, there is a window. In front of the window is a small table with two chairs, a salt shaker and a basket of walnuts. The walnuts smell musty. Belva pushes a walnut across the table with her beak, making a concentrating sound, click-click, ticketa-tick. The walnut falls to the ground and she lifts off and lands on the floor with a rustling of wings. The walnut, stubbornly remaining whole, rolls easily but does not give up its fruit. After a while, not very long, but long enough in sparrow time, Belva gives up on the walnut and returns to the table and from there to the window. She looks out the window, which has been closed for an eternity, or it may have been 15 minutes, in the life time of a small brown sparrow in a winter house with drafty corners. She sits, alone at first, but gradually, as the day warms, the other birds stir and join her, up there on the window sill, with the grey winter fields and the slash of mud where there’s been a frost and refreeze not three weeks ago.

Fields

 

Me and my downward dog have some serious stretching to do before the market wakes. Before the market wakes, we open our eyes and stare out the window, where morning has not occurred to the mammals but the fowl are restive already. Craking, clicking, clacking, honking, chittering; beating sounds rise from the morning twilight and hang in the air, clack, click, honk, chitter. A bitter cold hovers above the warmth of sound, pressing down, cold ground, old ground, rolling over in the comforter, covering the mountain shoulders, shuddering back into the warm down spread. The warm dawn spreads slowly at first, after the snow showers, after the winds, and rises like a surprise resurrection, like an unexpected birthday party, and there the show of hands, of delphiniums, of daffodils, rise up again, tentatively answers a question that has not yet been asked.

Downward dog and me stretch and roll through the belly, the spine, on the gritty floor in front of the fire and then lie flat, staring at the ceiling with arms held out, ready for crucifixion or the shining oil of loss on a puddle in the middle of some pitted street. Downward dog and me stretch and sigh and rise up into the future with cobra, hang silently in trees, unseen. The weather waits, coiled, until we forget, then brings us down again, too soon warm, too late to hibernate. There is a bell that rings in the changing woods, a deep bell that rings, calling the birds, the seedlings, the writhing pink worm to keep moving; athetoid, it turns in upon itself until suddenly a reaching branch turns white, blush, and bleeding green. Time for market, time to pull on socks and drink tea, time to watch the spring birds rise up and leave the wintering fields.

Moonlight and nightingale

 

The moon is hanging in indecision. A nightingale sat on a low-hanging branch. He sang a love song to a rose in the moonlight. The rose turned her face away from him, up toward the eavesdropping moon.

I do not shine brightly enough, said the nightingale and hid his head in shame. A beam of moon reached down through the night sky and touched the nightingale lightly on his shoulders, stroking the strong wings, soothing the dark feathers. The nightingale lifted his head and looked at the moon. She was smiling at him, a simple half smile that suggested something not quite specific. He flew, with a light heart, from the lower branch to one at the top of the tree and sat there swaying on the highest, thinnest branch. A light breeze came to dance with him, and the moon wrapped her white light around him. This was the happiest nightingale had ever been and he opened his mouth to tell the moon about adoration and love and soul and so on. He opened his mouth and out came a song so brilliant, so trippingly and thrillingly embellished that he almost fell off the branch. Sitting there in the moon circle he was fully visible to every bird for miles around, his voice carrying from tree to tree, from tree to meadow to forest to river. Every bird began to sing back, to the glory of the moon, to the calling of the nightingale and he sang with a thousand song birds, a few hundred crows, and one or two sparrows who couldn’t sleep well for one reason or another. Their song shook the leaves, who began to dance, and the water, which began to jiggle and percolate in the wide shallow river. Someone turned the volume up high and they all danced together until the early hours of tomorrow, until the dance and the day was done.

Hive

I am leaving the hive, you see. It is my head, my head which is filled with the buzzing of bees, which is filled with longing, with honey, the comb, the drive to predict and to reproduce. I am leaving the hive, you see. It is my head, which is filled with honey, which is filled with a strange desire that is sweet and unreproducible. The honeybee has a particular song, you see. It is not the song of the wasp or the hornet. It is not the thin stinging whing of the mosquito, it is not the high whining cry of the child whose wishes have not been granted.

I am leaving the hive, you see, with a longing in my head that makes a buzz, a droning sound that says wings can beat so fast, too fast, so much faster than heartbeats, and the beating of wings can stir the winds, can carry them over oceans, over tides, over deserts and into high mountains, the clouds, the skies.

I am leaving the hive, you see, away from the honey, away from the drone, away from the sagebrush, the leaves and the waves at the wide ocean’s edge and up into the high, the rare mountain air, where breathing is hard but sweet, where breathing captures, raptures, wraps the straining lungs in wishes, in hailing, exhaling. The hive does buzz, does fly, does drive. The hive does predict, does produce, reproduce. Produce, reproduce, encase, contain. I am leaving the hive, you see, and that is enough.

Bottom feeder

another giant squid

This is what it’s like to be a bottom feeder. First of all, we love ink. Ink is invisibility. Ink is darkness. Ink is what we write our history with. Look out there, out there into the vast whiteness. It has nothing to say until the ink drops into its wide open. No turning back once the ink has been spilled.

You want to tell your history, that’s fine, nobody’s stopping you. You want to tell someone else’s history, that’s different. There’s danger there, smells like sulfur, smells like burning cactus, smells like the brushfire or the war that can rush in and wipe out an entire clan.

Once I was playing cards in the back room of a little trailer house in Four Corners and I heard the wind pick up suddenly, and it was like I could see them even from inside, tumbleweeds rushing across the black night and suddenly igniting, igniting like monks in red robes, self immolating and taking down the fragile open country and everything that lives there with it.

I understand the meditative life of the tumbleweed, I understand the need to move, to feel the wind catch and carry us somewhere new. I knew about that even before I left Navajo country after the fire. I found my home on water, water green and blue and dark, almost black, where I fell in and never went back to dry land again, not for more than two, three days at a time. Long enough to find myself lurching when I came back to dry land, feeling the hitch and pull of gravity and rotation more strongly than I felt them on the water.

My family’s been landlocked for hundreds of years, most of them. My sea ways made me foreign, weird and unrecognizable as a giant squid, coming up from the deep only rarely, with gifts for my sister’s children, and then her grandchildren, until I am the only old salt on the Navajo nation, bringing seaweed ristras and monkey balls and painted tentacles. I stay a couple days, give them the salty sweet taste of my bottom feeder’s life, and then I leave again, leaving behind nothing but a trail of ink, and a history they can fabricate from the secrets hidden in the bright open sky and the black mesa reaching in the four directions around them.

For me, I add two more directions: straight up into the heavens, and straight down, into the cold, dark waters, where the wild shy ones live, where I feel most at home.

In the middle of everything

golden retrieverThis is a common scene in my home, most or many of those autumn days: me, pushing the dog bed against the wall, in spite of her strong preference for keeping the bed in the middle of the room, where I had to step over her repeatedly while I bake.

This dog does not want a den, she wants a stage. She’s been through many remodelings in a relatively short period of time, for a number of reasons. Sitting quietly in a corner does not guarantee love, attention or food, in her experience. When we upgraded our windows, single to double pane, she tripped the Pella man, whose ankle was twisted, but he forgave her anyway because of her strawberry blonde hair and her wish to play tennis ball with him before he leaves. The plumber is less forgiving, and charges me for his x-rays.

At some point in the remodel I am finally able to remove the vintage 70s Elvis posters that have been tormenting me through ex-husbands, sentimental children and unsightly holes in the wall that I have not ever gotten around to patching or painting.

Really, don’t we all know that remodeling is most manageable following a huge natural disaster? A flood, an earthquake, even a fire? Although fire is so absolute that it has almost a religious significance. This fire would not have happened without your sin. Or mine.

So I found myself dragged through our history: the beaded shell door hangings, the various sound systems, lost technologies, the aging spices from vegan experiments, the nasty industrial air fresheners of the nineties, the assorted snugglies and noise cancelling devices of the early 2nd millenium. We washed our feet like Jesus at one phase in our nesting. We lit sage to cleanse in another. We accumulated in the next decade, more and more and more and more and more and came suddenly to a painful and choking halt, with duct tape and orange alerts and one ounce bottles to carry on our big adventures somewhere else.

Now it is time to upgrade the house with security systems and timers, cameras and automated gates. My gardeners begin to worry, begin to believe there are terrorists everywhere and now my baking is for reassurance. No worries, I tell them, Randy and Julian and John and Jorge, take this apple spice cake and this bag of little things we did not use in the remodeling. They are looking for re-usable wiring so they can protect the perimeter of their empty lots, where they will someday build the house they’ve always wanted for their wives and children, who are for the time being living in little thin-walled apartments in Rio Rancho, which are incredibly expensive and yet close. Being close is important. Being close is more important than double pane windows, which is something even my red-haired dog, who is no rocket scientist, knows, and I have come to agree with her, and leave her bed in the middle of everything, because that is where we all belong.

Potluck

RaccoonSkunk

She is at a masquerade ball. She’s dressed as a skunk. Her husband as a raccoon. They pretend they are not together. She is hot in her skunk costume, smelling a sweet musky melon smell rising up from within the costume. I smell like an animal, she tells herself. Her little skunk nostrils flare and her tail rises up, as if to give absolute proof to that statement. She goes to the food table, which is decorated in prison gear, with balls and chains and convict striped tablecloth. She brushes her black and white tail against the table and looks at the food. Popeye is standing next to her, looking at the yam pie and the sweet potato custard. He chooses the yam; she is more interested in the Dagwood pile of cold cuts: salami, pastrami, bologna, ham, pimiento loaf, sweet pickles, hot pickles, cole slaw, iceberg lettuce, American cheese. She builds a mighty fortress of a sandwich and looks for a place to eat where she won’t be seen. She feels ravenous, predatory, nocturnal. Scott walks by in his raccoon coat and she sees that he, too, is sweating, and she controls an urge to go and smell him, rub her scent against his. She is a perfume scientist, blending pretty scents with predatory glands, mixing clove, sage, nutmeg, ylang ylang, lavender with musk, dragon’s breath, graveyard flowers, dirt, the smell of rotting underground. She blends it all together, stirs it with a licorice whip, makes an infusion and douses herself in it for this dead evening. She is someone’s dead relative, she knows that, but not whose, she’s not even sure what species she is now. The fumes she and Scott make rise together and settle over the potluck table, greenish vapors wafting, hovering, dispersing into the casseroles, the pasta salads and the sandwich fixings. The costumed guests wander by, pick at the olives and the little sausages wrapped in bacon. As the perfume settles on them, they fill their plates higher, higher, suddenly ravenous and revolting to themselves, until the entire party is rolling on the floor under the table, mashing foods into their mouths, into each other’s mouths, tearing at the flesh of the melon and the chicken with equal lust, equal abandon, and in the background they could barely hear, through their overpowering hunger, the minor chords of any organ in any moldy cemetery in any old movie with a theme that involves dismembered body parts, oozing bits, and smells that make the innocent turn faint and nauseous. There were no innocents at this costume party, on this Halloween, and all there were fed until they were hungry no more.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 48 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 165,005 hits

Archives

Categories

March 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031