Songs For Cats And Clowns
The turtle looks with unseeing eye
at emerald shadows that surround him
seeking the pattern of the fly
that gauzy-winged flits around him
until with sudden, furtive bite
he satisfies gross appetite.
And like the blind, indifferent turtle, we
can only reach and grasp what we can see.
I stopped my walk this morning to trade notes with a mockingbird.
That guy! His throat was bursting with a wealth of tunes I'd never heard.
There are lots of birdsongs out there,
But this small dude's range beat them all.
What? That was a New York accent, a midwest twang, a Texas drawl.
His songs were more various than seemed possible.
He must have traveled far
and wide to pick up such a fabulous, unparalleled repertoire.
I tried a couple of my own on him: "Sweet-sweet, sweet-sweet, trill."
He picked it up and embroidered it, made it his own, managed to fill
his notes with more emphasis than mine.
Big-brained me, I was outdone by this small
Mozart-Chopin-all-the-Beatles-and-Billy-Joel rolled up in one.
That same morning, I was lecturing myself. "You're a realist," I said.
"Work out a real-world scenario and face facts.
How long now have you fed yourself daydreams?"
But can I start from scratch, begin over, devise a new way
to open my own eyes, think the new thought,
and face the real world every day? Have I the fortitude, after so long,
Don't know. Mockingbirds do that. Maybe I can.
They can't bend their knees.
And they drink water with their feet.
But trees please by giving us their nuts and fruit to eat.
They shelter us from sun and heat
And make safe homes for birds and squirrels.
Trees wave when you go by.
They play catch with sunbeams in the sky.
From beginning to A tree is
end . . . always
a good friend.
ONLY A CACTUS ROSE
I'm such a sweet feller that I can't understand
nobody holds my hand.
Got plenty of spine and a real cute mug
but nobody ever
wants t'gimmie a hug.
Say a cute little cactus like me can't miss!
Baby. Gimmie real big kiss!
Observe the fly with his jeweled eye,
how he rubs his hands as he pauses.
What are the pleasures that he feels,
their natures and their causes?
Does he think with delight about airy flight
as he pauses to rub his hand?
Do the flies, perhaps, philosophize
as they sup from our garbage cans?
One may turn up one's nose at second-hand clothes
(Though some people like 'em and wear'em).
But you have to look far for a first-rate used car
(and as for myself -- I can't bear 'em).
Ah, but handle and look at a first-rate used book!
Though the cover and pages are tatters
The ideas through and through may be all glossy new.
It's the mind of the writer that matters!
Sunshine gives us light and heat,
Helps farmers grow the food we eat,
And solar power from the sun
Makes mom's calculator run.
Solar power lights the stars.
Someday it might run our cars
And even boost a ship to Mars!
Madame Curie roused from her sleep.
(Was she played by Joan Fontaine?)
Voiceover murmurs as the lustrous deep
Eyes widen: "Only a little stain
On the dish . . ." Perhaps the actress'
name has been forgotten, but those opening eyes
remain imprinted on my memory as if
seen yesterday. I am still pierced by her thought
that all the toil expended months, years
of labor had produced so little. Caught
in those few words is the essence of all the fears
of all of us. From all our doings, fraught
with self-importance: life and love and war and death
and birth . . .
Will the tiny stain that's left
the distillate of our own lives
have any worth?
CATS AND DOGS
A dog will laugh at all your jokes
And take you home to meet the folks.
But cats won't laugh if the joke's not funny.
Cats act as if their folks had money.
FISH AND BIRDS ARE ALIKE
If you were a fish you would think you could fly
for water is air to them, ocean is sky.
If you were a bird you would spread every feather
swimming through windy skies, rain, and fair weather.
Because whether you're tiny or whether you're tall
Though you may not notice perspective is all.
You see through your own eyes and your own mind only.
I see something different.
Perspective is lonely.
But if you were the sun you might look down and say,
"The creatures of earth are all shining today."
The wind roars down the plain
And strikes the earth with heavy, dusty paws.
It races past naked rocks, dry as the bones of our
fathers of old --
("Buddy loves Candy" sprayed on in dayglow gold).
Run, wind! Bring us in your jaws
a desert-gift from our old Ocean-mother: Rain.
THE CASE FOR ZOOS
A case is to be made for having zoos
that overweighs my deep distaste for cages.
There is a knowledge not conveyed on pages
or staring at the TV evening news.
I know; although to see those walls enrages
me, I can't forget the afternoon
on which I climbed a tower to the sky
to face a living giraffe's face. There, eye
to eye: he, like an envoy from the moon,
was wholly calm, pure, innocent not shy.
How infinitely poorer we would be
without the exquisite opportunity
zoos give to us to catch that fleeting chance
to shed our egocentric human arrogance.