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Field Guide

November 2007, no. 296

Field Guide

November 2007, no. 296

1 preface
I could, if you prefer, create a list
like a birdwatcher, concealed
in a reedy hide, with binoculars,
field guide and record book, a mnemonic
of migration lines, our lines of sight,
a cladogram of our evolving past.

2.1 comb jellies (Ctenophora)
Our nerve net
our eightfold
metachronic prisms
ripple through the rain of light.

2.2 spotted eagle rays (Myliobatridae)
If we had feet, we would dance;
if we had hands, we would hold them.
Instead, we reel and dip our leisurely trefoils.
We have stars on our backs;
they travel with us,
untouchable reflections of an untouched sky.

2.3 parrot fish (Scaridae)
With all their fancy feathers
I suppose the lorikeets and rosellas
can be as brash and noisy as they like.
I would rather take my time
and, gliding between the staghorns,
arrive in rainbowed silence.

2.4 hawksbill turtle (Chelonidae)
Down here among the soft corals,
the ocean moves less.
Ever so slowly, I eke out my oxygen,
await the incoming tide
to clear their unguents, their crèmes,
and salve my shadow-sharp eyes.

3.1 blue tigers (Nymphalidae)
Somewhere between the clouds and the earth
unaccountable corridors of attraction lure us,
tasting the eddies and wakes of falling leaves,
of the trails left by every one of us,
until we metamorphose, finally, into cool
ether streams, veiled with weeping mists.

3.2 black fruit bats (Pteropodidae)
This would be a great place to hang around
making bad puns and not much better jokes,
were it not for the mosquitoes, thirteen to the dozen,
twisting and turning us back to front,
upside down, the webs between our fingers
itching in expectation of sweet and sticky flight.

4.1 sooty shearwater (Procellariidae)
You really have to agree
that when the southeast trades blow so hard,
when the air stings with so much salt
that the sun turns as white as a pearl,
when the landlost cry for their atropine and ginger,
you can see all the way to Alaska.

4.2 striped dolphins (Delphinidae)
We have no knowledge of aerodynamics,
fluid flow, or the diffusion of soluble gasses,
but from below the clicking interface of our sonar horizon,
we jump
we jump
we jump.

5 index
Awash on the reef,
calcareous impressions,
days at an end,
enforced retreat,
quiet taxonomy,
secret unhurried returns.

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