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


Holypig said...

You should apologize to Edgar Allen Poe and then you need to apologize to all the Christians out there for being such a Christian-hating bigot in your other blogs. If Christians were Jews, you'd be called a NAZI but in Political Correct land you are called a free thinker by the loony liberal left. I just call you a Christaphobic Bigot. REAL Birders are not filled with such HATE.

Tom said...

"REAL Birders are not filled with such HATE."

Oh, like Dick Cheney--a birder and a christian? How many deaths is he responsible for? Hm???
"but in Political Correct land you are called a free thinker by the loony liberal left."

Allow me to turn the right-wingers' favorite aphorism against you: If you don't like it here, then go home to where-ever you came from.
As for me being a bigot, let me see: I am the great-grandson of a catholic bishop on my mother's side, and on my father's side the scion of a historical Trannsylvanian protestant family. One of my best friends is a retired protestant minister, and another is an active orthodox priest. At my wife's aunt's wedding, the only interesting dude worth partying with was the priest (everybody else drank beer from the bottle--yikes). They know my beliefs (or lack thereof) and we are able to hold pleasant conversations.
I am not specifically anti-christian. I am anti-fundamentalist. You, sir, are one of those Anglo-Saxon fundamentalists who think that God is a native English speaker who personally rubber-stamped the King James Bible. I visited your website a few months ago, thought to myself, "Wow, he really believes this stuff?" but I had no burning need to contact you, and tell you that hold crazy, bizarre and dangerous beliefs.

The 911 hijackers were fundamentalists, as are the idiots who think that God gave them Jerusalem, so it's okay to keep building illegal settlements

Somebody please get me a bumper sticker that says, "In case of rapture, this car will remain occupied."

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful!

Holypig, what a strange, rude, and mean-spirited comment. Real Christians are not filled with such hate either.

Tom, I'd encourage you to just delete it.

Anonymous said...

FUNdamentalists are FUN !!

Lost in America said...

Hi Tom, great post. Have always loved your humor and look forward to your posts, especially on the LA birders list; I live in Claremont too, but I'm a lousy birder and don't get out much. I visit OakPark Cemetery frequently but never can see what all you good birders see, but I cherish it more because people like you are finding the rare nuggets even when I can't.

Christian hate is such an all-pervasive thing these days, and unfortunately not even oxymoronic. It's important to remember that there still are a few scant Christians left who have the capacity both to reason and to love. I just wish there were more of them.

Thanks Tom, you have fans!

Tom Miko said...

Thanks, Lost in America!

That should have been the name of my blog. My parents brought me here when I was one year old, and a year later, my dad died. My brother died when I was 26, and my mom died when I was 35, so until my kids were born, I had no blood in America. I felt marooned, and considered moving to Europe, to be near my cousins, my aunt, and my uncle.