Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Great White Bird Poem

This actually happened today. I was on the viewing platform looking out at the marshes between Plum Island and the mainland. Everywhere was snow and ice. But in the distance I could see the blue liquid of the Parker River. Nothing stirred. Except a hawk. I watched it until it disappeared. Then I just stared into the distance, thinking of this and that. Trying to listen to the wind blow through the pines behind me. Two birders then approached. The wind began to howl. Wait, wrong story. We chatted a bit. They were looking for the Snowy Owl way out there somewhere. I wished them good luck and went into the pine. Looking for god knows what.
Plain as Day
Parker River Wildlife Refuge

Two birders from Connecticut
went looking for the Snowy Owl.
And I observed—while on the viewing
platform—as they approached, on the prowl
with tripod, scope, and removable zoom.
I knew my peace had met its doom
and offered them my place, and left
to look for something in the pine.
I wasn’t sure exactly what—
or which allusion, countersign,
or signal I should there pursue.
I never got what birders knew—
you go to where the bird has flew;
don’t wait for it to come to you.

~Son Rivers 2006
The poem is supposed to be plain speech. I'm just not sure right now if it's too damned plain. Or if my attempt to turn a few phrases and make a few rhymes has overcome that fact. I'm leaning more to the latter right now though.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gosh, about 40 years ago I used to go birding in the Parker River refuge. I did see a snowy owl there. I also remember getting the greatest ice cream on the way back--Golden Guernsey. Yum! But to the poem.Greg, I wonder if you've gone on with this, it is promising. I don't think the speech is too plain--it's mixed, in a way that detract, in tone and also in diction. The opening suggests comedy, but the sestet gets into darker Frost country. Go with that, it's promising! I agree with your sense that the line ending in "doom" sounds forced. "I should there pursue" isn't normal word order and it's fairly formal. Change "went" in the second line to "came." "while on the viewing platform" is prose, nonmetrical and also an explanatory footnote. Can you put yourself on the platform first and then have them come? "I stood as privileged, watching birds,/on a high platform. From my perch/I saw two people on the prowl/ [you didn't know they were from Connecticut until they spoke].

Greg said...

Arlene

Thanks very much for the comments. It's been awhile so I had to go back to the poem and try to remember the spark behind it. You're correct about the comic start. But I guess I'd have to argue for the ungrammatical finish. That brings the poem back to its comic beginnings for me. Not only is the grammar incorrect (kind of some vernacular wisdom), but so is the lesson that could be learned from the birders. For the owl in the poem did come to me.

Anyways, I guess I still would keep the "there pursue" for the same somewhat comic reasons. But I could be swayed on that one. And I still am ambivalent about the "doom," but like it still the same. Maybe because it's so obviously rhyme-induced what with the couplet making its mid-poem intrusion. Following the previous five plain (prosy) lines. Like the poet has suddenly remembered he's writing a poem.

Lastly, I have to disagree with your opinion that "while on the viewing platform" isn't metrical. "While on the viewing" continues the iambic meter from "And I observed" albeit with the feminine ending. "Platform" begins the next line with the trochee followed by the iamb "as they." And I actually wanted the prosy feel, the plain speech.

As for comic and ambiguous. I think the comic comes from the ambiguity. Nothing after all is plain as day.

Again, thanks for the comments. I know I disagreed with most of what you offered, but that's more a reflection of my stubborn intent than the quality of your insight.

Best Regards,
~Greg