Like barbets leafbirds are exceedingly difficult to spot on a leafy tree. Jerdon’s leafbird (Chloropsis jerdoni) are no exception, a rather remarkable looking bird it vanishes in the canopy of leafy tree. And here I was standing under the tamarind tree armed with my camera and loosing the bird all the time wherein it was always hopping on the nearest branch. These birds are adept in imitating the calls of various other species of birds. Spotted this charming one (it’s a female) at Miligiri Forest where we had gone earlier this year for mammal census. A herd of hapless wild elephants –consisting of about 15 odd members with calves- were being chased using crackers by Tamil Nadu forest guards onto Andhra Pradesh, the favor was promptly returned by Andhra Pradesh forest guards. The elephants were reduced to elaborate ping pong played by forces of two states. In the melee the elephant raided nearby villages for stored tamarind sacks and managed to kill a villager. Miligiri doesn’t really have much of mammal population; we spotted bear scat and few bonnet macaques, or maybe we missed other mammals.
Theodore Roethke: I learn by going where I have to go...
At Woodlawn I heard the dead cry:
I was lulled by the slamming of iron,
A slow drip over stones,
Toads brooding wells.
All the leaves stuck out their tongues;
I shook the softening chalk of my bones,
Snail, snail, glister me forward,
Bird, soft-sigh me home,
Worm, be with me.
This is my hard time.
Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) was a significant influence on American artists of the 1940's and 1950's generations; he is considered as one of the greatest American poets of the twentieth century. Roethke spent his childhood helping his father in his work. He weeded greenhouse beds and gathered moss in the tract of original forest on the family property. He also roamed the game sanctuary that the family maintained. He described it in an interview. "I had several worlds to live in, which I felt were mine. One favorite place was a swampy corner of the game sanctuary where herons always nested”. Images of these crop up frequently in his poetry. He wrote, somewhere else that the greenhouse "is my symbol for the whole of life, a womb, a heaven-on-earth." Roethke was a master stylist of both free verse and fixed forms. Many of his poems are intensely lyrical and draw from the natural world in all its mystery and fierce beauty.
Once More, the Round
What's greater, Pebble or Pond?
What can be known? The Unknown.
My true self runs toward a Hill
More! O More! visible.
Now I adore my life
With the Bird, the abiding Leaf,
With the Fish, the questing Snail,
And the Eye altering All;
And I dance with William Blake
For love, for Love's sake;
And everything comes to One,
As we dance on, dance on, dance on.
Long Live the Weeds
Long live the weeds that overwhelm
My narrow vegetable realm!
The bitter rock, the barren soil
That force the son of man to toil;
All things unholy, marred by curse,
The ugly of the universe.
The rough, the wicked, and the wild
That keep the spirit undefiled.
With these I match my little wit
And earn the right to stand or sit,
Hope, love, create, or drink and die:
These shape the creature that is I
I remember the crossing-tender's geranium border
That blossomed in soot; a black cat licking its paw;
The bronze wheat arranged in strict and formal order;
And the precision that for you was ultimate law;
The handkerchief tucked in the left-hand pocket
Of a man-tailored blouse; the list of shopping done;
You wound the watch in an old-fashioned locket
And pulled the green shade against the morning sun.
Now in the misery of bed-sitting room confusion,
With no hint of your presence in a jungle of masculine toys,
In the dirt and disorder I cherish one scrap of illusion:
A cheap clock ticking in ghostly cicada voice.
Child on Top of a Greenhouse
The wind billowing out the seat of my britches,
My feet crackling splinters of glass and dried putty,
The half-grown chrysanthemums staring up like accusers,
Up through the streaked glass, flashing with sunlight,
A few white clouds all rushing eastward,
A line of elms plunging and tossing like horses,
And everyone, everyone pointing up and shouting!
My Papa's Waltz
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.
The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.
Journey Into The Interior
In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
-- Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birch trees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.
This poem Elegy For Jane has become one of my favorite poems, the imagery is brilliant and filled with so much love…
Elegy For Jane
(My student, thrown by a horse)
I remember the neck curls, limp and damp as tendrils;
And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile;
And how, once started into talk, the light syllables leaped for her.
And she balanced in the delight of her thought,
A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her;
The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing,
And the mould sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.
Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth,
Even a father could not find her:
Scraping her cheek against straw,
Stirring the clearest water.
My sparrow, you are not here,
Waiting like a fern, making a spiney shadow.
The sides of wet stones cannot console me,
Nor the moss, wound with the last light.
If only I could nudge you from this sleep,
My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon.
Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover.
Scribble from my pad
Since they still make war
and wallow in greed and waste
let me sing with the birds
lie on the grass
count the stars
let me go for a long walk
on beaten trails
in the deep woods and riverbanks
and see life between little steps.