Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Great Gift

Last summer we rented a shack in the woods.
Robins bounced in the grass, shat on porch railings,
And nested under the eaves. Every morning
We pulled the tattered bedroom window curtain
And watched them feed their chicks while we discussed them,
Griped about a poor night's sleep, and planned the day,
Which never tired of refusing all our plans.
One dawn I read Sarah an opinion piece
About the most peculiar partisanship
Of wildlife web-cams, those monotonous feeds
Of creatures getting on with human-free things.

The grist of the piece was a fine incident
In which a broken-winged eaglet enlisted
The mad sympathy of thousands of viewers
Who refused to leave "Nongame Wildlife Service"
Alone until they had broken the bent rule
Of nonengagement to kill the broken thing
Humanely. What exercised the irony
Of the editorialist was the rich
Contrast to this sympathy for the eagle,
The mother of which had fed it ripped pigeons,
Their own unlaid eggs spilled with their viscera.

A few mornings later a cherubic squirrel
Scampered up the porch post to snatch baby birds.
Sarah drove him off on the robins' behalf,
And we savored the irony of falling
Victims to our own bewildered sympathies.
A day later still, while we were well away,
The squirrel returned and succeeded. Our mornings
In the shack in the deep woods seemed poorer then.
The robins moved on, and, after awhile, we
Moved on, too. The world remains full of robins.
The murderous squirrel we never saw again.

This afternoon, a thousand miles and some months
Away from there, lying on my back staring
At an indifferent ceiling, what comes to me
Is another bit of trivia from that
Opinion piece. The truly impressive thing
About wildlife web-cams is not what gets caught
Wildly happening, but mostly what is not
Happening in the forever recording
Of things, mostly animals doing nothing.
This, it suddenly seems to me, is the gift
Of direct cinema: the Earth is boring.

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