August 3, 2011

Max’s Musings

By Max Molleston

Birds! That’s right, birds. I have approached the subject a few times. My challenge is from the journalism side of writing, which asks for the closest thing to facts we can obtain. Birds take, essentially, flights of fancy. Man can fly with the help of powerful engines to propel into the space of commercial and private aviation. I did not re-research phrasing in the Holy Bible mentioning birds not knowing. Language of a couple 1,000 years in the past did not have science. I am happy with birds not knowing, but I may be the only one. Throngs of birders, dressed to the nines as hikers or just watching birds come to feeders they have set up, have knowledge how certain birds outsmart or bully others of their ilk, when it comes to food places, and in mating and nesting periods. If you watch birds long enough, you have that knowledge. If you write about their activities as a journalist, or as a poet based as I am, the outcome is probably different. A half-dozen poems I composed centered on birds and their actions. My poem, Teacher Tree, features a winter ice storm and the glassy beauty. I get technical, based on a college botany class.

“phloem and xylem push
nutrients to highest bird perches.”

The ice on the limbs is observable. The activity of trees growing is seldom subject of a poem. In my poem, Glancing at Nature, we approached it this way.

“In days to come flyers like these and others
will find the seasons’ winds, and, some say
magnetic bearings, maybe DNA directions.”

I had begun to lean here. Science of birds keeps pointing to the size of bird brains (maybe the same size, but more adaptable) and what these flyers can do and be. Built in, and has been for longer than man has had the time to conjure on it? Haiku is a short poem initiated in the history of Japanese poetry. One of my efforts, which is tongue in cheek, goes like this.

“bird waste falls to earth
marring and marking our lives
The flights are wonderful”

That final line, “the flights are wonderful” is not speculation. All bird flight is our own air show. Not as event-filled, but something to wonder on.

The poem that has troubled me longest is one I gathered, based on some observations over time. It is titled The Future.

The bird on the ground looks round and round
and occasionally squawks, carrying plumage
of some color and order to be seen
and to do more important things.
Lofting, the gifted species sees round and round.
We watching can have hope from that.
From birds who can see their futures
at great distances and not know.

Plenty of National Geographic films and others on public television show what this poem talks to us about. However, the final three lines are subjective, based on that Holy Bible passage. “See their futures at great distances and not know.” The poem is clearly what I wanted to say and passes my muster. Maybe that is most important. A poet has liberty in the direction of his or her thinking and may craft it and await a viewpoint. Other creatures have flight capabilities, Millions of them, maybe billions. I titled this one, Me! A Monarch?

If I could fly, I’d enter my sky
as a butterfly, free to move
all round the place and sit
and preen my pretty wings
and look for other things
like my fellow flies and try to
discover why I am a Monarch.

I have not mentioned that great and mysterious insect, the firefly. We called it a lightning bug. To sit and watch its activity in the summer darkness is a wonder.

Thanks for staying with me on my challenge about the intelligence of birds. September brings flying footballs. Join me next month.