The Nature Poem

I think that I have always had a bit of an aversion to the nature poems that hold up the prettiness of nature like an anecdote to all that hurts. They feel like lies.

Imagine lying on the grass, looking up at a blue sky. How can you not put yourself in that space without also feeling the sharp edges of the blades of grass under your soft and exposed upper arm? Or feel the dread tickling of a piss-ant crawling over your ankle? The mystery movement – a tiny rustling – just under and behind your ear?

How can you breathe in the oh-so-pleasant smell of pine sap and not acknowledge the slaughter on some level? I don’t mean in a sins-of-our-fathers way.

What is, is. In the nature documentaries the p.o.v. is everything. The lion or the wildebeest. Funny how we will attribute cruel volition – volition – to the lion when we see through the eyes of the ungulate. But when the story is told from the lion and her cubs’ point of view, the grazing wildebeest is as senseless and lifeless as cartoon prey of a cartoon protagonist. The dead eyes of the schooling masses.

Goldbarth’s nature poem doesn’t mention a single tree. But it is all about looking closely at the wholeness of… us.

I was listening to a podcast that mentioned early cave art: the hand-prints that are silhouetted with paint “before spray paint existed”, they said. They expert imagined the volition of the individual artist who wanted so badly to leave “his” mark in the world. Invention to suit a desire.

But you know what I thought? I thought about laughing spontaneously with a mouth-full of half-chewed blueberries. I would love to think that that is how the spray-paint discovery was made.

This hand? Yes, I was here, but just in passing. Like a ghost temporarily blocking the way of the truth. Like a toddler demanding attention before her attention is snatched by a buzzing fly on the rim of her sippy-cup. Like an exchange of conversation in the now, unconcerned with who may be listening.

The view is always more interesting when peeking through a small aperture. It doesn’t make it more true.

In the late fall, the oyster mushrooms look like lilies from a distance.


%d bloggers like this: