Friday, November 11, 2011

The Excrement Poem

It is done by us all, as God disposes, from
the least cast of worm to what must have been
in the case of the brontosaur, say, spoor
of considerable heft, something awesome.

We eat, we evacuate, survivors that we are.
I think these things each morning with shovel
and rake, drawing the risen brown buns
toward me, fresh from the horse oven, as it were,

or culling the alfalfa-green ones, expelled
in a state of ooze, through the sawdust bed
to take serviceable form, as putty does,
so as to lift out entire from the stall.

And wheeling to it, storming up the slope,
I think of the angle of repose the manure
pile assumes, how sparrows come to pick
the redelivered grain, how inky-cap

coprinus mushrooms spring up in a downpouer.
I think of what drops from us and must then
be moved to make way for the next and next.
However much we stain the world, spatter

it with our leavings, make stenches, defile
the great formal oceans with what leaks down,
trundling off today's last barrowful,
I honor shit for saying: We go on.

-- Maxine Kumin

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The jays scream and the red squirrels scold while you are clubbing and shaking the chestnut trees, for they are there on the same errand, and two of a trade never agree. I frequently see a red or gray squirrel cast down a green chestnut burr as I am going through the woods, and I used to think sometimes that they were cast to me. In fact, they are so busy about it in the midst of a chestnut season that you cannot stand long in the woods without hearing one fall....

Consider what vast work these forest planters are doing! So far as our noblest hardwood forests are concerned, the animals, especially squirrels and jays, are our greatest and almost only benefactors. It is to them that we owe this gift. It is not in vain that a squirrel lives in almost every forest tree or hollow log or wall or heap of stones.

Thus one would say that our oak forests, vast and indispensable as they are, were produced by a kind of accident, that is, by the failure of animals to reap the fruits of their labors. Yet who shall say that they have not a dim knowledge of the value of their labors?--that the squirrel when it plants an acorn, and the jay when it lets one slip from under its foot, has not sometimes a transient thought for its posterity, which at least consoles it for its loss?

But what is the character of our gratitude to these squirrels--to say nothing of the others--these planters of forests, these exported dukes of Athol of many generations, which have found out how high the oak will grow on many a mountain, how low in many a valley, and how far and wide on all our plains? Are they on our pension list? Have we in any way recognized their services? We regard them as vermin. The farmer knows only that they get his seed corn occasionally in the fields adjacent to his woodlot, and perchance encourages his boys to shoot them every May, furnishing powder and shot for this purpose, while perhaps they are planting the nobler oak-corn (acorn) in its place--while up country they have squirrel hunts on a large scale every fall and kill many thousands in a few hours, and all the neighborhood rejoices. We should be more civilized as well as humane if we recognized once in a year by some symbolical ceremony the part which the squirrel plays in the economy of Nature.

-- HDT, from Faith in a Seed