For the Birds

“Owls have a peculiar knowing way, a strict sense of personal space, a connoisseur’s restful delight in their food, a certain repose, a remarkable capacity for necessary aggression.”

Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

When M read this to me recently, I thought, “What a great character sketch!”  The style and flow of this sentence (and believe me, the book is full of them) makes me involuntarily smile as I pick each phrase apart and apply it to a person.  I make plans for pouring this sentence (like a syrup) into my morning writing, infusing that delicious penchant for a chapter’s worth of information in such an adorable little package … and then realize I have gotten lost in its magic and am going to be late for work.

This is why reading, on a voracious level, is so important.  I have accepted (to some degree) that I will not be able to read everything I want before I die.  Even if I lived to be 110 years old, I would not be able to accomplish this feat.  But think about this.  Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds was published by Sasquatch Books in 2001 and won the 2002 Washington State Book Award, yet I would have missed it if M wasn’t a bird crazed darling who decided to read it.  Further, author Lyanda Lynn Haupt has apparently been a prodigious writer since then, receiving another award for a book called Crow Planet, and putting out a more recent delicacy – The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild last year.  I mean, with writing like this, I now feel obligated to add every one of her books to my reading list.

As a very analytical person, I have taken a step back from my fascination to write this piece and to ask you, “Am I overboard here?”  Sure – it’s just a sentence.  Maybe I could just read the one book and pat myself on the back as a writer, telling myself “Due diligence,” and all that.  “We must read as much as we write.”  This has never seemed like a chore.  It seemed like selection of reading material was like a builder planning and acquiring supplies … prioritizing those areas where the absolute best must be purchased, and compromising where less expensive materials will do to make sure the finished product is better than the last one.  “Trash in trash out,” must equate to “Artistry in artistry out,” I surmise.  It’s a sentence.  I ask you once more, “Am I overboard?”


Words (March 1999)

if words were like pennies i would truly be rich
for all the things i want to say to you
swarm my brain like pissed off bees defending their hive.

if words were ice i would truly be frozen
by all the icicles hanging in my skull
like dripping daggers painting to my heart.

is words were brush strokes on canvas i would be world reknown
for all the masterpieces i have created for you
in many hues of blue and blue and blue.

if words were clouds the world would die
smothered in the darkness my words keep me under
in my strain with the pain that lingers everywhere in me.

if words were bullets i would perish
in the prison of my love that cages me
while i aim at you and point the barrel at me.

if words were weeds i would pick up gardening
and pull them ’til my fingers bled and my hands stiffened
and my back broke and my body was covered in the earth

but they would keep growing.

in reality –
i am broke, warm, and of average artistic ability
i see the light most times
i am alive and i don’t care to week a garden
of my bitterness.

i feel –
rich with hurt, frozen from intimacy, a maestro of the pallet,
darkness surrounds me,
i am dead and can’t see it through vines of
betrayal that grip my legs
wrap around my neck
and swallow me whole.

if words were freedom I would truly be free.

[Blue grotto, Capri Island, Italy] (LOC)