I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
So here are two to slide into the new year.
In my dreams, it’s the fierce hawk in the tree and the lion trying to get in the window. It’s an elusive spring trove of songbirds or migrating flocks like a windstorm of leaves. There are vermin—mice in the kitchen, fearsome insects in terrariums. And wolf packs, large herbivores, even giant yeti-like humanoids. All, I suppose, are my personal fauna: the nature I used to pursue like an ardent suitor, trying to decode its inscrutable messages; the predatory obligations that pursue me through life; the physical world itself of which I am an atomic anatomic reorganization.
Last night it was a tiny ocelot chasing I’m not sure what, a rodent or a bird, moving unbelievably fast around a wooded backyard similar to the one of my childhood in Connecticut. My sympathies were with the prey, but the little ocelot, no bigger than a finger puppet, matched it twist for twist, turn for turn, finally catching up with it on the branch of a bare tree that came crashing down.
This was deeply upsetting to the hostess of the party and lady of the house. These were her rare and precious trees. Somehow I was to blame; I and others had released the tiny ocelot, had not reckoned on its destructive ferocity. But the dream was also about creating. In attendance at this party—the guest of honor—was my mentor, Frederick Busch (novelist and former teacher of mine who died seven years ago). We talked. He urged me to become a tavernier, a tavern poet. (This troubadour, never before named—a kind of folk/Beat bard of coffee shops—has been appearing regularly in my dreams for the past year or two.)
Trying to be a tavernier is what I am doing here, I suppose: releasing the little ocelot, to see what happens.
The Indecisive Goose
Gray day today. January thaw. Snow shrinking to blebs. I go out on my bike to drop off a bag of bottlecaps (dials for prop washing machines in my son’s play). That done, I ride home along the Mystic River.
15 Canada geese grazing the riverbank between the muddy path I’m on and the roadway. They mainly ignore me, with a few periscope necks popping up now and then: the designated sentinels. One lone goose in the river is coming ashore. I walk my bike ahead to give it room, then look back. It doesn’t join the others but hangs out on the shore. Then I see it stumble and half roll down the stony bank! Never saw a bird lose its balance before. It returns to water, perhaps to restore its dignity. Then it makes for shore again, steps over the small rocks, meaning to join the others, maybe. Who knows? Anyway, thinks better, goes back to water, swims one way, then another, in an indecisive circle. Two geese come flying down to the river with some ado. To help? Harrass? Neither. Splashing down, one of the new geese honks repeatedly from further downstream and I turn to see the rest of the gaggle of geese filing down to the river in a line like a disciplined troop. Hard to avoid the interpretation that one bull goose summoned the others. The indecisive goose does not exactly join them, but swims along at a short distance. Very far downriver I see two swans, bright white against the dark water. I mosey along to see if anything will happen when the geese reach them. On the way, I intercept a flock of probable goldfinches but they are awfully small. Kinglets? No. Redpolls? Wishful thinking. Whichever, a nice convivial flock on a drab day. I’m just upstream from the swans. The geese seem to give them a respectful berth, but no interaction. “Swan.” “Goose.” Just a quiet afternoon on the river.