Saturday, October 3, 2009

Interpretations


Fall arrived overnight this past week with a 20-degree temperature drop. We’re going to miss the summer heat!

Bill is showing this new photo tomorrow at the Twentynine Palms Art Gallery; it’s called “Fallen Angel.” Here are three interpretations: The Joshua tree itself can be regarded as a fallen angel. Bill sees the dark spot at the upper center as the open mouth of an angel falling. I see the same spot as the eye of a Cyrano de Bergerac figure, with the nose directly to the left. What do you see?

Recently Enid Osborn invited me to take part in a poetry reading with the theme of crows and ravens. That led me to do some research about ravens in the Mojave Desert—I put most of what I learned into the poem below.

The line about looking for “coyotes to torment” came from an incident at our house a couple of weeks ago. We watched a group of ravens swoop and dive at the crest of a hill; a coyote came over to investigate, almost reluctantly, like he’d been fooled by them before. He didn’t see anything, so he left and sat down under a juniper tree. The birds came back and tried again, but he wouldn’t have any part of it.

A Parable

The ravens saw garbage
and knew that it was good.
They saw roadkill—even better.
They became fruitful and multiplied,
an explosion made possible
by humans, who struck back
with bullets and poison. No luck.
Like capitalists run amok,
ravens show up uninvited,
squawking and diving,
looking for coyotes to torment
and tortoises for dessert.
Too much like us for comfort,
they kiss, commit adultery, even speak.
One learned to say, Bad Edgar. Nevermore.
Another mimicked a detonation team—
Three, two, one, Kaboom!
The only way to get rid of ravens
would be to blow up the world.
They’re chained to us, thriving
on our worst—dark reminders
of the sprawl of our desires.

Of course I learned many other things about ravens, too--that they are important figures in world mythology, often trickster figures, and sometimes important guides. Apparently the Norse god Odin had two ravens to advise him--one named Thought and the other named Memory. (Thanks to Phyllis Schwartz for loaning me The Bedside Book of Birds by Graeme Gibson--a feast of sumptuous illustrations and bird lore!)

I have respect for ravens. When I see and hear them in the desert, they appear to be creatures of great power and intelligence.