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Sunday, 18 July 2010



File:Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher.jpg

Brown-headed Paradise Kingfisher (Tanysiptera danae): photo by markaharper1, 2008

Quarrels with the inevitable futility of words in a harum-scarum world, the neverquiterightness
of any of them, are just not worth the effort. Simply getting through the night, not to mention
from one day to to the next, sans so many of the necessary toadstool virtues,
grows now an ever taller order. Requiring a longer drink of water. Gary Cooper. A silent man

would have been more likely to prove equal to the test. Summer's half over
before you'd even noticed it had begun. Equal and unequal alike,
in the endless march through the mind of the dissimilars and similars, shall die into the imagination
as the bright Paradise Kingfisher fades back into the forest.

Those souls who had returned belatedly to Earth when the traffic ceased on St. John's Eve returned
only in the mind of one who had belatedly solicited them --
no, more beautiful than souls, the small brilliant magicians,
the revenant ones from the night forest. They were always going to be disappointed by the blue ...tablets,

your star reckonings, to which their names, like water colors
applied to glass transparencies of the heavens, could never have adhered. Quarrels with the inevitable ...futility of words
in a harum-scarum world always seem to end this way, in a vanishing, as the peoples
believed those who had glimpsed Ceyx erithaca in the forest would never be seen again on this Earth.

File:Ceyx erithaca.JPG

Black-backed Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca): photo by Pkhun, 2009


Ed Baker said...

SO t h a t is a Kingfisher!

my first ever view of (an image) of one.

One of the Greatest pieces
EVER written Olson's:
The Kingfishers

as I re:call it is in his
In Cold Hell In Thicket

IF I had to choose one poem/ one book that
changed my direction

it would have to be The Kingfishers AND In Cold Hell In Thicket

TC said...


I feared that the title of the poem might give some readers to think it has something to do with Olson's poem. It does not.

The beauty of these birds' plumage has created a deserving place for them in human culture, going back as far as can be known. Their veneration in Polynesian tradition is long and deep.

The two individuals pictured in this post come from New Guinea and Thailand, respectively.

The very beautiful Ceyx erithaca, seen in the lower image (it is called Black-backed, or alternately, Oriental Dwarf), is thought by the people of the Dusun tribe of Borneo to be an omen bird. A warrior on his way to battle should avert his eyes from the spots where such birds are known to appear, and should he have the bad luck to see one, his chances in the battle won't be good.

But, again, the poem is not about that.

It is pretty much a personal poetic document, and just as Kingfishers are generally shy birds, so too am I, when it comes to explaining such things.



Ah yes, the futility of words (to 'be' what they're about) and summer already half done (almost before it seems to have begun). We looked for the kingfisher standing on a stretch of telephone wire above the lagoon every day last winter, driving Johnny to school and back) and he would often be there, in the same spot, looking out over the water, looking for something to dive for (once I ever saw him dive, how exciting!). And then, as if all of a sudden, he wasn't there anymore, and we thought he's gone away (vanished) until next season (fall? winter?). . . .


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, blue jay standing on pine branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

that thing to be experienced,
a manner of concealment

as interpretation, has to do
with movement, “you see”

grey-white of fog against top of ridge,
wingspan of pelican flapping toward it

Ed Baker said...

no... not at all Ol-sonic!

and, I apologize for linking to'it

recently thinking.... birds are sacred beings

just, myself did a "bird" piece/image of

TC said...


No problema, Olson will be relieved to have slipped the onus.


Thank you for being there to answer the eternal Motown question, Can I Get a Witness?

reminding us

that thing to be experienced,
has to do
with movement, “you see”

Radish King said...

A pair of them live in my yard. They are most remarkable with their dry trilling and absences and returns. They excite my cat beyond imagination. I think he is in love with them as he loves the neighbor's chickens. He knows they are beyond his flight ability. He watches but does not ever drool or show his tongue or kikikiki. Thank you for these gorgeous shots.

John B-R said...

That is a beautiful poem, Tom.

"Quarrels with the inevitable futility of words in a harum-scarum world, the neverquiterightness
of any of them, are just not worth the effort."

The least of what we have to accomplish before we go is perfection.

And I do NOT believe a silent man would have proven more equal to the task. Nothing "adheres" except in the mind, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't mention it.

I'm glad for this poem. To quote Muddy Waters instead of Motown, "You move me ..."

TC said...


Thank you. For a long time my favourite Muddy Waters recording was a Chess B-side, I Got My Bird's Nest on the Ground.

Ovid's halcyon bird was probably a near relative. To the Kingfisher, that is, not to Muddy Waters. Though that too may be a possibility, given a metamorphic view of the universe.


Lucky you, the thrill of the trill, the flash of the feathers, too divine for mere palabras, in your own back yard.

Here's a Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher in a tropical thunderstorm.

The tail is a lovely balance rudder, twitching in the rain. If Orlando is one of those video watching felines, he might like to clamp his glims on it.

Joe Safdie said...

Tom, that's a gorgeous poem; it moved me a lot. I love those creatures.

Moreover, I'm slowly getting the feel of where you're at these days. And just wanted to say that you've always been one of the essentials for me.

freep said...

Tom, your words about the futility of words are not futile. Thanks for the kingfishers and the meandering poem.
Although I live by a river where (European) kingfishers are said to fly, I have only once in eight years seen what I thought was a glittering hallucination there. But last year, I visited a friend in Donegal, who had a little dirty river outside his door, with a supermarket trolley half-submerged, and three kingfishers fussed up and down looking gorgeous and tarty and common as muck. Seeing is relieving.

Curtis Roberts said...

I think you got the "neverquiterightness" exactly right throughout this poem and it's a great thing to wake up to on this midsummer (calculated relative to one thing or another) morning.

human being said...

our world is not that world of a-few-writers-with-lots-of-readers...
everything changes!

now the words of writers and poets may affect just a few... or just one... or just themselves...

makes no difference...

i believe in domino effect...

not a single word is futile!

for you:



Yes (again) "the neverquiterightness of any of them," as in these (here, again) ---


first grey light in fog against invisible
ridge, shadowed blackness of pine branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

equivalence, also considered
as system at rest which

has gone, conveyed therefore
to increase mass, merge

grey-white of fog against top of ridge,
pelican gliding to the right toward it

TC said...

Thanks everyone, Curtis, Joe,

Hb I am honoured and have been off to your place to tell you so,

... and Freep, it's great to hear from you. Meandering is certainly the word. A while back I searched Geograph for the full stretch of the River Wharfe. There went six loopy hours. The poem I suppose is like that.

My amateur archeologist's instincts are always excited by the mere thought of the diverse ecologies of submerged
and half-submerged shopping trolleys.

(Speaking of common as muck... And for that matter one wonders whether the kingfishers are in any way aware of their extreme beauty; I have often wondered, from a distance, about how it must feel to be a very beautiful thing. Perhaps less extraordinary, if most others of your kind are approximately as beauteous?)

leigh tuplin said...

Really really enjoyed this Tom. A sense of transience, both long and short, and the beauty of both.

aditya said...

I had been just waiting for you to write some thing like this.

Quarrels with the inevitable futility of words

Poised just perfect. A slight breeze of a poet's affinity for the neverquiterightness of words used, might just have pushed the beginning in to an inevitable futility of perfection.

Your personal poetic document is a piece of pure poetic instinct delivered in the manner beauty delivers itself.

TC said...

Thank you, Leigh and Aditya.

The facts of life (transience) and the facts of language use (neverquiterightness): poets make good witnesses in both these areas.

Elmo St. Rose said...

just a point about BEYOND THE
PALE...recently I skimmed Pound's
Guide to Culture and I compared it
to TC's blog which I frequent almost daily...It is nearly a
century later but if I were young
which I am not and I wanted a guide
to culture in the same way that
Basil Bunting and Louis Zukovsky
perhaps did, as Pound's Guide was
dedicated to them, and I wanted
to be a poet which is in its true
form a hazardous profession,I would
read this blog as a Guide to Culture, early 21st century style,
for poets.

TC said...

Thanks from the heart, Elmo.