How to use an otter to negotiate

 

Otter_Steve_Slocomb_6178538861_3979396802_zHow to use an otter to negotiate
Is to turn it loose in the room
Among the lawyers and business types
Trusting its liquid eyes and old-woman whiskers
To get us to a place where everyone is happy

While knowing they all know you know
Otters live by their wits
And teeth and claws
Are fiercely territorial
Defend their young to the death
Only sometimes mate for life

But prefer loafing in the waves
If only everyone could get along

 

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A robin

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A robin, solitary, young by now raised, body gathered inward against the chill light, breast the color of sunset, color of embers blown with new life, that were embers yet and never would birth flames, perched taut on the taut catenary stretched from beginning to end, from end to beginning, and far nearer one than the other

was moveless the while

I watched

till time had gone

then did I cross the new mown lawn, then I walked on, past gray sermons of buildings, past black stones standing, moving along alone beneath the dark green trees and through the park and through the cheering dawn toward town

only, nearly there,

to pause, struck still, pierced neatly to the brain on glimpsing, pictured in the patternless cracked sidewalk cement, having hastened before me to lay itself as if by happenstance across my path,

my own shocked heart.

 

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A poem is a machine for making

sense, the way a dog
is a machine for barking.
And just so, there are side effects:
the mess that takes you by surprise
(the wondering when did that happen?)
the licking your face
when you’re trying to sleep
and unless you take precautions
always more poems.

The rest of the family - 146828640_463b12e9af_z

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Thirteen Things the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know about Blackbirds

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1.
New rule in your city:
Everything you know about blackbirds
Is about to change.

2.
The blackbird told me
One simple trick
To get the IRS off my back.

3.
Check out these
Hilarious blackbird fails!

4.
Revealed: secrets
Of the world’s richest blackbirds.

5.
Click here to view
Celebrity nude blackbirds!!!

6.
I am Nigerian prince
Recently come to possession
Of substantial Blackbirds.
Transmission of a small sum
To pay Customs duty
Enables their release to you.

7.
Watch how this chance meeting
Between two blackbirds
Erupts into violence.

8.
The unblinking eye
Of the blackbird
Is our last bulwark
Against terrorism.

9.
Here are six wild predictions
That came true
About a blackbird.

10.
Yes! Yes!
Blackbird!

11.
Red wing; black bird;
The all-in-all.
It takes millions of colors
To make this clear
So buy a new phone now

12.
Secret brain pill blackbirds are using
May soon let them
Replace humans.

13.
True science:
This blackbird
Kept in a sealed box
Was both alive and dead
And neither.

 

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No story

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There were never two men named Charles
in spite of what they both said
there were never two wives of two men named Charles.
There weren’t four children of two wives of two
men named Charles, and they didn’t
have eight pets, and forget about everything
you think you know,
nobody ever gave them sixteen names
thirty-two Christmas presents
or sixty-four walks around the park.

None of that ever happened.

 

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The Museum Elephants

Elephant in Rotunda of Smithsonian Natural History Museum

Within the murmurous expanse
Beneath the bas-relief-ringed dome
The taxidermied elephants
Reign over their eternal home:

With tiles for the grass-giving earth;
For sun-burnt destinations, walls.
Eight times a week, the monkey mirth
Of school groups echoes through the halls

While in and out the galleries
Architectonically discrete
The docents’ high-toned rhapsodies
Contend with sounds of scuffling feet.

And once a month someone comes in
Brushes the dust from wrinkled skin
Sweeps cobwebs from the painted skies
And polishes the glittering eyes.

 

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A Song for Music, with Music, and Ham Kicker

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“A Following Song” is a songAlex Floor wrote the music and recorded it. As songs sometimes do, this one has changed its monicker: you may call it “They Went Their Ways.” It joins Stone’s Throw, which the redoubtable Godescalc (more mundanely, James) brilliantly set to music some time ago…

The thing came about this time because I once happened across the oddly-named Ham Kicker website, “an exhibition of collaborative musical work”:

Poets are encouraged to submit poetry. Songwriters are encouraged to work with poets and their poems to develop songs. Performers are encouraged to interpret or reinterpret songs.

So I sent Ham Kicker’s proprietor (turns out his name is Joe) a poem to put up on the site, and forgot about it for more than a year. And then, a while ago, Joe let me know that Alex had written and recorded music for what is now indisputably a Song. Which made me happy, as you might guess, for it’s a lovely song.

Here is the Hamkicker post introducing the thing; here (again) is the song in all its mp3-compressed glory; there’s sheet music! (I love sheet music!) Here, for some reason, is an undated interview with Joe.

And why not, here’s the poem again, with its new title:

They Went Their Ways

Down by the hill, or lower down,
The larks and lizards built a town.
They sang for fun and lay in the sun
And life was easy.

Seasons came, and came, and came,
And some were different, some the same;
The flowers grew, and blossomed, and blew,
And life was easy.

But a lark grows bold to stretch its wing
While a lizard sleeps and dreams of spring.
So the larks forgot – what the lizards did not –
That life is easy.

Then they went their ways, no one knew why,
Some to the desert and some to the sky,
With the turning spheres and the passing years,
Like life, so easy.

 

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“You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks”

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“You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks,” he had explained in his brief and vigorous style.
Brave New World

You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks
You can’t teach her to play dead or dance
Though you whip or reward her, malign or implore her,
She won’t fetch, beg, speak or shake hands.

You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks
Not because she’s not worthy or fun
The rhinoceros goes where she wants to go
And will do what she always has done.

Try to teach a rhinoceros tricks
The results uniformly are gruesome
And the worst thing of all is, it’s quite possible
It may end up with her teaching you some.

 

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