Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.
I don’t know which is more discouraging,
literature or chickens.
– E. B. White
Like everybody else during this pandemic, I struggle to keep the days from all blurring together, trying to keep boredom and anxiety at bay.
I am a projects and lists person – always more than one project going, and endless lists.
The difficulty of keeping track of what day it is today is a widespread problem. Since I have two ongoing day-by-day history projects, I have to keep backtracking, refocusing on what I put together for today that I actually set up last week. Probably the closest thing to time travel I’ll ever experience.
Humans are big on starting “Days” – national days, holidays, memorial days, days for raising awareness of diseases, for causes, and a host of things that matter to us – there are long lists of them.
For example, TODAY is:
Bird Day / World Give Day / Candied Orange Peel Day / Respect for Chickens Day / Intergalactic Star Wars Day / International Firefighters Day
So if I put ‘Bird Day’ together with ‘Respect for Chickens Day’ then the poetry for this weekly Monday post becomes pretty easy to find.
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird beats its wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!
“Sympathy” from The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1913)
Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872-1906) born in Dayton Ohio, the son of freed slaves, was one of the first African American poets to gain national recognition. When he moved to Chicago in 1893, he became friends with Frederick Douglass, who helped him find a job as a clerk, and arranged a public reading for Dunbar to present his poems. Within two years, his poems were appearing in national magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times. After a reading tour of England in 1897, he received a clerkship at the Library of Congress, but by 1898, he was suffering from tuberculosis, and resigned his position to concentrate on writing and giving readings. He died at age 33.
Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens
by Jack Prelutsky
Last night I dreamed of chickens,
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,
they were pecking at my pillow,
they were hopping on my head,
they were ruffling up their feathers
as they raced about my bed.
They were on the chairs and tables,
they were on the chandeliers,
they were roosting in the corners,
they were clucking in my ears,
there were chickens, chickens, chickens
for as far as I could see…
when I woke today, I noticed
there were eggs on top of me.
“Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens” from Something BIG Has Been Here, © 1990 by Jack Prelutsky – Greenwillow Books
Jack Prelutsky (1940 – ), American poet and children’s author; he has published over 50 poetry collections, mostly for children, and was named as the very first ‘Children’s Poet Laureate’ by the Poetry Foundation (2006-2008). He lives in the Seattle, Washington area, and spends much of his time reading his poems aloud to children in schools and libraries all around the United States.
by Alicia Ostriker
—for Elizabeth Bishop
Tuwee, calls a bird near the house,
Tuwee, cries another, downhill in the woods.
No wind, early September, beeches and pines,
Sumac aflame, tuwee, tuwee, a question and a faint
But definite response, tuwee, tuwee, as if engaged
In a conversation expected to continue all afternoon,
Where is?—I’m here?—an upward inflection in
Query and in response, a genetic libretto rehearsed
Tens of thousands of years beginning to leave its indelible trace,
Clawprint of language, ritual, dense winged seed,
Or as someone were slowly buttoning a shirt.
I am happy to lie in the grass and listen, as if at the dawn of reason,
To the clear communal command
That is flinging creaturely will into existence,
Designing itself to desire survival,
Then the bird near me, my bird, stops inquiring, while the other
Off in the woods continues calling faintly, but with that upward
Inflection, I’m here, I’m here,
I’m here, here, the call opens a path through boughs still clothed
By foliage, until it sounds like entreaty, like anxiety, like life
Imitating the pivotal move of Whitman’s “Out of the Cradle,”
Where the lovebird’s futile song to its absent mate teaches the child
Death—which the ocean also whispers—
Death, death, death it softly whispers,
Like an old crone bending aside over a cradle, Whitman says,
Or the like the teapot in Elizabeth Bishop’s grandmother’s kitchen,
Here at one end of the chain of being,
That whistles a song of presence and departure,
Creating comfort but also calling for tears.
“Birdcall” from No Heaven, © 2005 by Alicia Ostriker – University of Pittsburgh Press
Alicia Ostriker (1937 – ) born in Brooklyn, New York; American poet, scholar and Jewish feminist. She was a finalist for the National Book Award twice, and did receive the Jewish National Book Award for The Book of Seventy (2009). The Imaginary Lover (1986) won the William Carlos Williams Award.
by Diana Gittins
Maisie has returned from the wilderness
abandoned her virtual nest, her eyes
no longer wild,
her chest no more on fire.
She shakes her gawky frame,
preens her messy feathers, looks
around in shocked surprise
as when a passion – soul-consuming,
mind-regressing, heart-obsessing –
and drifts away, leaving
feet and flesh earthbound in the everyday.
“Chicken Sutra” from BORK!, © 2013 by Diana Gittins – Happenstance Press
Diana Gittins (1946 – ) American writer, who has been a research fellow at the University of Essex; a lecturer at Plymouth University, and a part-time associate lecturer of creative writing for the Open University. She won the Guernsey International Poetry on the Buses competition in 2011, and took second place in the Flamingo Feather Poetry Competition. She lives in Exeter, Devon, England.
So today is Monday, May 4, 2020, and now it’s covered in feathers. However, Tuesday will Cinco de Mayo, Cartoonists’ Day, and Enchilada Day:
Por favor – pass the salsa!