The Underwings of War

National Pigeon Association, England, 1940

Notch.
Web.
And then,
down the shaft,
lesser wing coverts
and marginal coverts, and soft,
greater underwing coverts — although never as great
as greater under-primary
coverts, gray-coated
and down-plumped,
trailing
what
might
reveal
a pattern
just over the down
that might support a secrecy.
Launched from double-decker buses, or attic windows,
or the dark roofs at Bletchley Park,
the lesser pigeons,
always first
to find
the
fray,
sport black
metallic
canisters strapped to
matted lapel feathers. And tucked
inside, like Russian dolls, a cipher’s hollow chambers —
down and down, a Fibonacci
spiral, a paper
nautilus
of words
and
codes
and keys
that shift with
each decipherment.
The bard is in the wand — read space
as shape, read a as i — the key takes subterfuge,
that doubling, double agency
when tomfoolery
is crossed with
rage. But
these
are
simply
carriers,
word-burdened, instinct-
tossed, searching for the perch within
a blasted atmosphere. Find forms, the message says, and
everything will fall in line.
The bird is in the
wind. The loft
is in
the
smoke.

Audio and discussion with the author here.

Sharks’ Teeth

Everything contains some
silence. Noise gets
its zest from the
small shark’s-tooth
shaped fragments
of rest angled
in it. An hour
of city holds maybe
a minute of these
remnants of a time
when silence reigned,
compact and dangerous
as a shark. Sometimes
a bit of a tail
or fin can still
be sensed in parks.

Finishing Up

I wonder if I know enough to know what it’s really like
to have been here: have I seen sights enough to give
seeing over: the clouds, I’ve waited with white
October clouds like these this afternoon often before and
taken them in, but white clouds shade other white
ones gray, had I noticed that: and though I’ve
followed the leaves of many falls, have I spent time with
the wire vines left when frost’s red dyes strip the leaves
away: is more missing than was never enough: I’m sure
many of love’s kinds absolve and heal, but were they passing
rapids or welling stirs: I suppose I haven’t done and seen
enough yet to go, and, anyway, it may be way on on the way
before one picks up the track of the sufficient, the
world-round reach, spirit deep, easing and all, not just mind
answering itself but mind and things apprehended at once
as one, all giving all way, not a scrap of question holding back.

Gratitude

It is hard to feel a sense of gratitude for an inanimate, mechanical world proceeding inexorably in accordance with eternal laws of nature and blind chance. And this is a great spiritual loss, for it is through gratitude that we acknowledge the living powers on which our own lives depend; through gratitude we enter into a conscious relationship to them; through gratitude we can find ourselves in a state of grace.

All religions provide opportunities for giving thanks, both through simple everyday rituals, like saying grace before meals, and also in collective acts of thanksgiving. These customary expressions of gratitude help to remind us that we have much to be thankful for. Each religion has its own way of recognizing the living powers on which we all depend and of establishing a relationship to these powers through thanksgiving.

For those for whom traditional religious practices seem empty and meaningless, there are three possibilities: first, to recognize no living power greater than humanity and hence to recognize neither a need for gratitude nor a means of expressing it; second, to feel such gratitude privately but with no means of public expression; third, to find new ways of expressing gratitude collectively and new conception of the life-giving powers to whom thanks are due.

–Rupert Sheldrake, The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God, pg 219

A Man’s Work

When we are stripped down to a certain point, nothing leads anywhere any more, hope and despair are equally groundless, and the whole of life can be summed up in an image. A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

–Albert Camus, “Between Yes and No”