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Wednesday 21 December 2011

"Cold floating days..." (Solstice)


House sparrow (Passer domesticus) with winter plumage: photo by 3268zauber, 3 January 2009

Cold floating days, difficult to keep body

Temp. up as planet cools off mysteriously

This P.M. two small grey birds bump

About in the rose bush for a while

A capella (no rush hour for once)

In last rays of tinny Christmas sun

While voluntary trumpets are quietly

Emitted by radio into Jerusalem foiled sky

Far off and to our great astonishment

O blue earth sounds your golden flower

From the bell of its silver horn

I didn’t think it would ever come back on

House sparrow (Passer domesticus) in non-breeding plumage: photo by 3268zauber, 3 January 2009


ACravan said...

"I didn’t think it would ever come back on."

The balance of the words, pictures and thoughts here is very effective and affecting. It's always said that you shouldn't -- that it's immature -- to read oneself into your reading, but obviously that's an impossibly pure instruction.

We have our own bumping animal sounds and the days are both bumping along and spiky. And it's cold. (Colder tomorrow.) I really like this.

TC said...

Thanks very much, Curtis. Feeling a bit (more than usually) under the weather this winter, so one seeks encouraging signs where one can find them. There were indeed a pair of very small birds bumping-about in a bush just outside the window at dawn yesterday, and as that was as close as I came either to seeing the world or seeing daylight, over these past twenty-odd hours, I'm taking it as a reminder that from now on, every day, touch wood -- a little more light.

(The voluntary trumpets were probably Purcell.)

Anonymous said...

A wonderful piece, Tom. I keep running your enigmatic phrase "Jerusalem foiled sky" over & over on my tongue and before my eyes. Each time I think it will come in more clearly, & while each time it is somewhat different, "clear" it most certainly is not (for how could it ever be?).

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Beauty is thinking what shall come next. What is right here in front of us moves past to that point. I don't see the deer but notice the Stellar's jay taking a wintery bath. My hiatus to the Northwest is not real sitting so still. Mom threw out the tarot cards by mistake. We ordered some new ones (Voyager deck) here in Oregon.

Nin Andrews said...

Yes, beautiful and beautiful closure. And here, so much rain, even the birds aren't bothering to bump around, though something ate the head of my seed-snowman. I am guessing a squirrel. I am guessing soon the cold will close in on us and turn this area into an ice skating rink.



Ah, thanks for those sparrows (in words and photos), white crowns flitting from fence down to feeder then back up to fence than back down to feeder, out the window right now. Cloudless blue sky in this "cold floating day," saw the first orange speck of the sun coming up above ridge from water level this morning, "O blue earth" has indeed "come back on". . .


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, whiteness of moon next to branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

act of himself only himself,
as thought in the way

light on the branch, leaves,
not unlike the effect

blinding orange edge of sun above ridge,
white cloud in pale blue sky on horizon

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Feel lucky to have this one; also lucky that there are a lot more house sparrows in Greece (I think) than other European countries--probably because they can find more holes/cavities for nests in buildings that have seen better days. Fine by me, as they make our garden a much better place in winter.

. said...

This is wonderful,Tom.


I remember when this was the Moes' holiday poem on their little broadside, must be around 20 years ago. Solstice deep and dark here right now but will be in California by New Year. Thanks again for this poem, Tom. Package heading your way, hope you get this one.

TC said...

Brad, Jerusalem foiled sky has kept me interested since its last appearance in the word bank, some 22 years ago. Clear, gold, foil and resistant to permanent occupation by the infidel, was that what it was?

Cold freezes the blood but concentrates the mind. Or seemed to, once. Now... would numbs be the verb?


Hawaii probably wasn't real anyway. Too... pleasant, would that be it? Oregon, a sensible holding tank for re-entry to the Empire. The total effect comes slower that way, more mercifully. One can't help admiring the big trees and the euthanasia.


Freezing here too. Rain inhibits bird-bumping. Save five seconds on Christmas for intensive virtual ice-skating. A soon as I am ambulatory again, I will be hosing down the tiny doll's house-size rink. In the deep past, of course.


A picture to warm the cockles of the heart of Mr. Lazarescu:

"...white crowns flitting from fence down to feeder then back up to fence than back down to feeder, out the window right now. Cloudless blue sky in this 'cold floating day,' saw the first orange speck of the sun coming up above ridge from water level this morning, 'O blue earth' has indeed 'come back on'. . ."


Passer domesticus, an angel without a passport, finds its heaven in a house-eave or as you say, any convenient hole or cavity... a skill we of the disturbed urbs don't possess but nonetheless may be needing sooner than we know.


Thanks... and I should tell you that you've had my half-waking mind (the better half) poking about in the spooky lab shadows of the Darwin Science Centre, this past week of compressed millennia.


O Brute sage of Destiny, the problematic glee of naming finally caught up with me this week, then whizzed past in the dark, at the eerie vibration-speed of a theremin in the tentacles of a virtuoso. Oh the frisson! I am not worthy!


I probably wouldn't have continued with poetry and definitely not the way I did if I hadn't seen you read and then met you that day in Berkeley. You were on fire! And livid about Bob Haas. It's a fond memory.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

This poem is positively gorgeous. Tom ... there is something about the sparrow ...

In a brief reading I gave last week, I tried out some new work. Assembling the poems, I failed to notice until midway through the actual reading that there was a proliferation of sparrows.

At least one person there was very happy. As this poem has made me.

@Susan - thank you for the lovely poem of a comment, which hit we square between the lyrical eyeballs.

TC said...

To make someone/s happy, what greater thrill is there?

The sparrow, that great, often somewhat worried (in the city wouldn't you be?) survivor.

Anxious Passer

Can't resist reiterating here:

...a morsel from Marguerite Yourcenar's wonderful essay "On Some Lines from the Venerable Bede".

"... Asked to give his opinion on the introduction of a god named Jesus into Northumberland, this thane, whose name is unknown to us, broadened, as it were, the discussion:

"'The life of man on earth, My Lord, in comparison with the vast stretches of time about which we know nothing, seems to us to resemble the flight of a sparrow, who enters through a window in the great hall warmed by a blazing fire in the center of it where you feast with your councilors and liege men, while outside the tempests and snows of winter rage. And the bird swiftly sweeps through the great hall and flies out the other side, and after this brief respite, having come out of the winter, he goes back into it and is lost to our eyes. Such is the brief life of man, of which we know neither what goes before nor what comes after...'"

And Yourcenar comments on this -- which comes down from Bede's Latin prose via the rough Anglo-Saxon of Alfred -- as follows:

"For Christians, despite their belief in a blessed or infernal immmortality, what will follow after death (they pay little attention to what came before life) is perceived, above all, as eternal rest. Invideo, quia quiescunt, said Luther as he contemplated tombs. For this barbarian, in contrast, the bird issues from a storm and returns into a tempest; these lashings of rain and this wind-tossed snow in the Druidic night might make one think of the whirling of atoms or of the whirlwinds of forms in the Hindu Sutras. Between these two horrendous storms, the thane interprets the flight of the bird across the hall as a moment of respite (spatio serenitatis). That is quite surprising. Edwin's thane knew perfectly well that a bird which has flown into a house of men darts about madly, running the risk of dashing itself against those incomprehensible walls, of burning itself in the fire, or of being snapped up by the hounds lying next to the hearth. Life as we know it is hardly a moment of respite."