The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

The Hawthorn Tree
By Louise Glück

Side by side, not
hand in hand: I watch you
walking in the summer garden--things
that can't move
learn to see; I do not need
to chase you through
the garden; human beings leave
signs of feeling
everywhere, flowers
scattered on the dirt path, all
white and gold, some
lifted a little by
the evening wind; I do not need
to follow where you are now,
deep in the poisonous field, to know
the cause of your flight, human
passion or rage: for what else
would you let drop
all you have gathered?


From Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, this week on nature poetry. "Someone has asked me if contemporary poets write nature poetry," writes Robert Pinsky. "I suppose it depends on what you mean by the term 'nature.'" He calls the poem above "a model not only of narrative economy, but also of respect for the natural object. Even though the tree is made to speak, in some essential way it survives as a tree, not a mere puppet for the writer. The tree is tall enough to see, it is aware of its immobility, it views the field beyond the garden as poisonous, and human behavior as destructive as well as transparent...'Gathered' is a word that sometimes means 'understood,' and that seems to be part of the point here. Nature is itself and other; understood in a way morally but in another way not moralized, not contorted into a symbol."

Despite the bump on his head, my younger son seemed well enough (and wanted) to play soccer, so this morning he had a game, then we took awhile getting organized and decided not to drive the hour and a half to the Patuxent River War of 1812 reenactment. We thought about going to the Iraq war protest downtown but chickened out on the transportation situation and went instead to Rock Creek Park Day at Rock Creek National Park, a big park within DC that encompasses a nature center, planetarium, stables, hiking trails, gardens and a Civil War fort. We stayed in the vicinity of the former since that was where most of the activities were and we were particularly interested in seeing Reptiles Alive and the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, which had brought snakes, turtles, frogs & toads and falcons, hawks & owls respectively to the park's 115th birthday festival.

There was also a climbing wall and a local fitness group was giving out stepometers, which pleased the kids. In the evening they were planning astronomy programs on using the night sky as an Underground Railroad compass and a look at Andromeda, but the skies were overcast so we didn't stick around. The Reptiles Alive show was targeted more for younger children than ours, though ours are always happy to see snakes, toads and turtles even when the woman in charge is encouraging everyone to say "EWWW!" when she announces what some of them eat, but the kids were particularly excited by the raptors which we saw among a very small group of people because the guy in charge was rather dry and talking much more for the adults in the audience than the kids. The Raptor Conservancy's traveling birds are all disabled, which is why they are kept in captivity, and the great horned owl is under the impression that the speaker is her significant other, and it was fascinating to see them up close. It was a very gray, drizzly day and I was not all that close to the birds and using my little camera to avoid getting the big one wet, so all these pictures had to be photoshopped to brighten them and they still need work...

This is Smoke, a screech owl nearly blinded in a car accident. The speaker said that he does not realize he is only a little bitty owl and tends to posture and play to crowds.

Here he is from a distance to put his size into perspective. This is as big as he's going to get.

Big Girl, a red-tailed hawk who is also nearly blind after a car accident.

Hipster, a barred owl whose hip was crushed in a car accident.

Nipper, a kestrel. This bird has permanent damage to its wings after being hit by a car.

I didn't catch the name, but this is a female great horned owl that had been kept as a pet and released into the wild. She was then found trying to steal hot dogs from children. She is considered unsafe for release, as she wants nothing to do with other owls and gets close enough to human civilization to do serious damage to people with her very strong talons.

Another bird whose name I didn't catch, this broad-winged hawk is yet another accident victim. He is newer to "public speaking" and was somewhat skittish, trying to flap away, so I didn't use a flash, hence all the photos are blurry.

Sunday is Hebrew school and soccer practice and in the afternoon my in-laws are coming to celebrate older son's birthday a day early, so I will be running around a lot of the day. Hope everyone is having a nice weekend, and calmer now that Rita is ashore.

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