WATER, BIRDS AND LANDSCAPES I
ODE TO WATER
Once I called it crystalline twilight,
of quartz-like liquidity
colored with the chromatic horizon,
something like the lens of my eye--
or the nature of my seeing through it--
or the rainbows sunlight makes
through my eyelashes
when my eyes are half closed.
But it is more liquid than that
not mirrored like mercury
but clear as the sound of whales in the deep.
Twilight In Crystal
My hands can't quite reach it, nor hold it--
but they know it somehow
as part of themselves,
like a mime knows the memory of his own heart
when he holds space between his fingers.
It is more intimate than tools
to one who loves his or her work,
as wondrous as sex can be,
but lighter and clearer, less earthy,
and closer to all the full moons I have seen,
or the tides that pulled me
or what it must have been like to be in the womb
if I could remember---
maybe something like being weightless, warm and
resting like a dolphin floating in a July lagoon.
Water they call it, aqua, l'eau
or the Chinese character for the seas,
which means 'every water', or:
'everyone's mother relates them to every water'.
That is why everyone should care about it
and why it is so disquieting
they abuse and pollute the wonder of it
and then find excuses why they do it.
Nothing can justify it.
But words never say enough
and get tangled like seaweed
in meanings not meant.
I remember a few clear streams,
increasingly rare now,
a long time ago,
where I found fresh water clams and mussels
many of these now endangered.
Amazing they pollute what their bodies are made of,
not caring who gets sick downstream
as long as they profit from it.
Not caring that species go extinct
and rare fish die of chemical poisons..
How sad, when recently, I was wading
in one of the once lovely rivers
that flow into the Great Lakes
and found a large boulder in the river
covered with the fossils of mollusks
and not a single live clam in the river now
who can survive the human waste and chlorine.
Most don't notice or care.
But I remember swimming above rainbow trout,
in the Mokoloume and Russian Rivers,
hovering five feet down at the river bottom
speckled with colored lights
and, near Shasta Mountain
I saw the lens in the eye of a bluegill
like a clear blue drop of the tropical sky.
I too seek this clarity of being
and I too am made of earth, water and air
and the liveliness of seeing.
I have not forgotten what matters.
Stellar Jay and Sierra Stream
I remember crystal waters in the granite gorge,
near Eureka ( " I have found it" the word means,
I found beauty there)
swift and dangerous and as clean as the stars.
The waters were too fast for a grown man to get into,
much less a boy
even if I was a strong swimmer, and I was.
I was made to compete as a swimmer from age four
by people supposedly wiser than me.
Until age twelve I lept from a platform on a gun shot
and swam up and back, up and back,
to collect cheap ribbons of different colors.
They misused the rainbow,
which has nothing to do with winning and losing
blue is not better than red or yellow..
Neither color nor the elements are hierarchical
Gold is not greater than mud brown
nor is air or light more "spiritual" than water.
The magic of the colors and the elements
eludes human categories, Tibetan magic
and the descriptions and uses of science.
Female Mallard Swimming
in the Sun Drenched River
Something in me disliked the sport,
and one day, after a race I wanted to lose,
I found a Praying Mantis in my shoe
and its strange, alien beauty convinced me to never
use water to compete again.
Its green wonder saved me
from the vanity of defeating others
and using nature to create the illusion of human supremacy.
Something about the beauty of this and other insects
showed me the meaning of water
and in the wild days of my boyhood
I learned to watch fresh water shrimp
curl and uncurl in Van Gelder's pond,
which we called Cedar pond
and saw how snapping turtles survived the drought
and how I could walk on the drying pond bed in August
feeling the delicate green moss between my toes.
Even now, the sweet fetid smell of wetlands,
sun steaming on the mud,
excites me with the fragrance of fertility.
(Milkweed, Swallowtail, Frogs Dragonfly)
In the winter, the early ice was nearly transparent,
like looking through infinite stars,
and I watched painted turtles glide among the water plants.
One day, when the snows fell,
and the marsh reeds were orange and rust in the white,
I found a silver fox, dead, and half frozen in the ice.
I petted his soft fur and felt his velvet ears
and went back to see him for many days.
Probably hit by a car.
Like the Praying Mantis, the fox
entered my mind like a flame of wonder
and made me doubt the wisdom of the human world.
Wetland: Tule Reeds
It is the unmanageable fecundity of
that domesticated people ( homo economicus) dislike.
They want to bury them under malls and tract houses.
But, if all life on earth has one womb and one mother,
it is the wetlands.
Frog spawn floats on the algae
and the Green Heron expands his crimson neck
rhythmically pumping and primally swaying
in an ancient ritual dance
for his dazzled mate.
(who wouldn't be dazzled?)
Blue Wing Teals mate in the shallows
and Redwing Blackbirds flash red shoulders at sunrise.
Sedges blossom near water snakes
and tadpoles swim like long commas
in the sun dappled pond bottom.
An Egret preens long lacey feathers
and Ruby Crowned Kinglets fly from dried Golden Rod
to dried Wingstem.
In the salt marsh, Plovers and Sandpipers,
Curlew and Dowitchers seek different crustaceans
each a different size.
The hugely ancient female Snapping Turtle
lumbers up the pond bank
to lay leathery eggs
above the high water line
The sweet long serenades of Toads
join the Crickets hum as twilight
envelopes the marshlands in
Fog Coming up the Mountain
When fog crawls over the wetland
the bright, wide world narrows
and I have found intimate contentment
in the muffled silence of its close embrace.
As comfortable as a warm grey blanket
the mist has cradled me into a private space
where the whole universe
seemed only a yard or two across
and all I could see was the infinite closeness
surrounding my feet
and everything I could know of the world
was near and special
and it was a marvel to know.
Seagull at Wave Edge
The smell of seaweed
like damp earth, humus,
the seashell smell and sound of
what it means to be alive
and light grains like sand grains
and the touch of air on my face
and the glory of being able to see it all
and the mist drifting landward
and the seagull crying in the fog,
until the salt tears of my eyes
know their origin in the ocean
and I am happy to be alive
in the sea air of this beloved earth.
Seagulls and Willets
Water be my comfort
Where the dune grasses wave in the wind,
and the curlew and willets cry
over the bleached driftwood
on the fog shrouded beach.
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Copyright © 2002 Mark Koslow.
All Rights Reserved.