Monday, June 20, 2011

Two Visitors and a New Roommate


Lately, a pair of black vultures have taken an interest in our roof. We can hear them clammoring above us, but whenever we go outside to take a look, they simply stare innocently back at us. I will need to set up a camera to determine what the excitement is all about. This is the best shot I could get of one. I happen to like them, but my wife is a bit suspicious. For what it is worth, vultures are known to be the most monogamous of birds.









We also have a new roomie. A yearling gopher tortoise has decided to move into our courtyard. He dug a small burrow (very cute) and loves prowling the pavers for weeds to chew on.  What follows is a gopher tortoise poem I could never get right. I have given up on turning it into a decent poem so I am posting it after the pictures where few readers dare follow.


Two Before the Burrow

I.

Morning, the catfish pond drags dew back,
the wind’s cotton bolt unwraps and ribbons
off over the tree tops, late for work, new light
trailing its yolk behind.
I scatter a handful of trout pellets to the choir
and their jubilant mouths smack open to the sky.
A school of spinning gnats scrambles itself a tesseract
above the yawning water, disappears one by one
into the dimension of dragonfly.

I crouch before the burrow
carefully dug in a quiet corner of my backyard.
For years, an old gopher tortoise has lived here,
most of the time indoors with the blinds drawn shut.

I do not know much of him, but I do know
this burrow is his pride and joy. His obsession.
More than food. More than love.
I do know of this little bit.
Silently, he sculpts its sandy walls, a stucco
in the squat arc of his silhouette.
Its floor is always soft underfoot.
I’ve watched him from the porch.
His work is never done.
Refinement, refinement

bores down into the planet,
a roiling core,
agape space
around which the earth spins.

II.

I’ve identified the tortoise burrow’s three stages:
the fluted berm spreading out to the field,
the vestibule of interstitial light,
the unseeable root cellar.

Sixty-three other species share these rooms,
or might at any given moment.
We cannot comprehend that kind of magnanimity,
though to be fair, we do not know
what hegemonies exist within.

Perhaps they are told to leave their dirty boots
in the foyer, slide into purple guest slippers
sewn from the bruised lips of salvia and violet.


Perhaps they are made to endlessly scrub the floor
if they want to escape spring fires
and enjoy nopale jam from the larder
while the creatures above, the deer,
the bobcat, the bear, the pine
burn, burn for being large and hungry.


Perhaps there is forced blackmail involved
-- an embezzlement of the mind --
and they are down there chained to each other
the white frogs, the bobwhite,
the indigo snake (for whom
a peculiar silver shackle was fashioned)
the golden mouse, the small dirt owl,
the skink, the clucking
of the tortoise’s sharp beak.




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