Friday, September 17, 2010
I Ridicule the Gallinule
My apologies to Edgar Allen Poe:
Once upon an evening dreary, while I pondered, weak and birding,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my Jeep’s front door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my Jeep’s front door -
Only this, and nothing more."
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak September,
And each separate dying ember wrought no coot upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my field guides cease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Gallinule -
For the rare and purple swamphen whom the angels now ridicule -
Stupid Purple Gallinule.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some marsh bird entreating entrance at my Jeep’s front door -
Some lost migrant skulking out there, somewhere out there on that moor; -
This it is, and nothing more."
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was texting, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my Jeep’s front door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door; -
Common Coots there, and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, in the stillness ridicule,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Gallinule?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Gallinule!" -
Merely this, and that’s not cool.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely purple swamp hen at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery of the cesspool -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery Gal’nule; -
'Tis a Coot you silly fool."
Open here I flung the tripod, when, while I listened on the iPod,
In there stepped a young Gallinule of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my Jeep’s front door -
Perched upon an Obama sticker just above my Jeep’s front door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this violet bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "are not a Coot,
Ghastly grim and ancient swam phen wandering from thy Nightly roost -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the swamphen, "What a dork."
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing Coot above his Jeep’s front door -
Bird or beast upon the Swarowski, above his Jeep’s front door,
Purple Gallinule of the moor."
But the swamp hen, sitting lonely on the spotting scope, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Gallinule."
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster birders out upon the moor -
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Purple Gallinule of the moor."
But the swamp hen still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and open door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of cesspool -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of ridicule
Meant in croaking "Gallinule."
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my Jeep’s front door opening
On the cushion's velvet lining that the swamp hen gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the headlights shining o'er,
She shall press, bird, purple moor!
Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the food-stained door.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe, from my desires for Gallinule:
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe forget this Purple Gallinule!"
Quoth the swamp hen, "Hola, Raul!"
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted- tell me stupid Gallinule -
Is there - is there balm in Whittier? - tell me - tell me, purple fool!"
Quoth the swamp hen, "stubborn mule."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both ignore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within San Gabriel River,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the Gallinule named Purple -
Clasp a rare and vagrant swamp hen seen by birders named Abernathy."
Quoth the swamp hen, "You're just unlucky."
"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting -
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no blue plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the dusty S.G. River!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form while here I shiver!"
Quoth the swamp hen, "What a loser."
And the swamp hen, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
In the pallid dust of river, out there on the S.G. floor;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on my Jeep’s door;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the moor
Crazy birders; so hardcore!
photo credit: Brennan Mulroney from http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/enp/index.html