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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Black-Necked Stilt


Down along the Bay in the grey mud flats the Black-Necked Stilts are foraging.
They stalk gracefully on their long jointed stick legs,

Pausing to peck and dip at the mud,

Surveying enquiringly for small fish, tadpoles, tiny mollusks washed in and left behind by the receding tide.

Occasionally one dips, plunges.

Above the Bay the dawn is a blue steel stain within which begin to spread blots of pink and pearl grey.


Estuaries, tide pools, salt ponds, mud and alkali flats, flooded fields
Are places in which the old person now repeatedly dreams.

Remembering to forget will perhaps be more difficult in the afterlife though the turnings of the tide, though

The turnings of the tide,

The turnings of the tide,

They were meant to bring something.

File:Black-necked-stilt-morro-creek 306.jpg

A wandering and frequent intermission of attention
In which ideas slip irretrievably away
Would have something merciful in it

Were a few scraps or grubs of useful knowledge to remain alive
Washed in among the daily flotsam and jetsam
To be plucked from the mud flats of the dilapidated mind.

File:Eating Like a Stilt.jpg

And then there are the creatures of flooded places: perhaps of this, perhaps of another life
Stalking along the margins of the water, stooping to feed, if they can remember,

They can still remember.
Remembering to forget will perhaps be more difficult in the afterlife though the turnings of the tide, though
The turnings of the tide,

The turnings of the tide.


Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus): photo by Dominic Sherony, 2009
Cigüeñuela, or Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus): photo by Vtornet, 2009
Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), Morro Creek mouth, Morro Bay, California: photo by Mike Baird, 2007
Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), dipping for food, Corte Madera, California: photo by Ingrid Taylor, 2009
Black-necked Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus), Richardson Bay mud flats, California: photo by Covalent, 2006




Thanks for these musings on the turnings of the tide, (time), these photos of stilts still out there in the blue of a morning like this one, looking for food --


grey light coming into sky above blackness
of ridge, silver of planet next to branch
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

object, events then present
as physical thinking

as things, fact that seemed
on the surface, part

silver circle of sun reflected in channel,
white half moon in pale blue sky above it

TC said...

Thank you Steve -- a sound of waves lapping in your gentle picturing lines ("as physical thinking"), lovely open vowels moving through "white half moon in pale blue sky", silver circle of sun breaking through marine layer over the Bay just now.

Curtis Roberts said...

What you’ve done in making the birds speak -- for themselves and for us –- is remarkable and very touching. Even though these are still images, the movement (which I can watch for hours) of these amazing creatures, on sand and in water in the clear blue light, suggests their thoughts, which you’ve taken down diligently. I can’t pick out a favorite line or section; it flows so naturally. However, “A wandering and frequent intermission of attention/In which ideas slip irretrievably away/Would have something merciful in it/Were a few scraps or grubs of useful knowledge to remain alive”, will stay with me for a long time.

TC said...


Thanks very much, I love to look at these birds too.

Mirrors of the mind perhaps...

In fact it appears from the middle three photos they are mirroring if not actually looking at themselves.

Actually the poem is the shipwreck of a longer meditation on that subject dear to the hearts of Old Bores, memory loss; there were various and sundry excursions into trace-memory, flashbulb memory, & c., and the several vanishings of same, with elaborations naturally.

(Would tell you more about this fascinating oeuvre but I've entirely forgotten the details, of course.)


Thanks Tom, and thanks Curtis for pointing us again to these lines, to read again this morning . . . .


first silver edge of sun above blackness
of ridge, white half moon next to leaves
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

“cause” of such, is nothing
real that is at rest

in such a field accelerated,
falling, of physical

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
line of 7 pelicans gliding toward point

TC said...


I like the exact pelican count. Reminds me of the Keats bit about shutting the eyes of his fairy lady with "kisses four" ("why four because I wish to restrain the headlong impetuosity of my Muse, she would have fain said 'score'... suppose I would have said 'seven', there would have been three and a half apiece...")

Curtis Roberts said...

Memory loss is a multivalent subject and not the reserve of old bores. (Said in defense of middle-aged and younger bores, I guess.) And if one has a sense of humor, at least there are things to laugh about and share in its insidious neighborhood.

A couple of “professionals” have advised me that if you can remember that you’ve forgotten something, it’s much better than if you can’t. (Cold comfort I know, and I was a paying customer.)

That being said, Elvis sang “I forgot to remember to forget”. That must count for something.

Really, those mirroring birds speak my mind.

Robb said...

The repetition of

The turnings of the tide,
The turnings of the tide,

really haunted me, in the way I like to be haunted

TC said...

Elvis definitely had a point.

Thanks Robb, that's the bit that haunts me too. When I can remember it.