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Keeping a Besom by Tara Larkin

June 28, 2010 4 comments

The besom should always be hung 
thistle side up, surrounded by hollyhocks,
wormwood, artemisias and black iris:
to celebrate the sex joy of the thatch and rod,
the white harmonies between male and female,
as in the giving rain and the power of thunder.
Keep close your besom to dispel
an encounter with a black bear
not bound by wolf bane and trouble, even in a dream.

Besoms of foxglove, snake leather and hawthorn
can out fly a swarm of Ayahuasca bats and
most hail storms, provided there is moonlight.
The best besoms are powered
by Mars, tin and memory.
Familiars along for the ride cradled to the heartbeat
or lungs are said to obtain a bird’s hollow bones,
breath eaten by wind while imaging the altitude.
Sanctity above, forests below, rivers like scorpions.

As with a fire drake, a besom needs a
considered husbandry. Never dally
by a still green pond in which dwell
snapping turtles; these are the incarnations
of the Page of Cups who would steal
your besom by splintering your Earth soul,
his cold hard jaw you must then bind
with a blue silk cord. Beware of such
crude ponds. And blessed be.

A Bupkis in Gary’s Bonnet by Walter Bjorkman

June 18, 2010 2 comments

This time Gary the Beekeeper decided he was gonna listen to his customer. His last shipment of raw Eucalyptus honey from Santa Cruz to the Bronx didn’t work out so well, because he didn’t listen to his customer. It was packed shabbily because he didn’t listen to his customer, put in the big 5 gallon glass jar that said “fragile” right there etched into it. Wrapped in a shabby carboard box that had no corrugation, left devoid of packing peanuts because he didn’t listen to the customer, tied with no twine, because he didn’t listen to the customer. The 60 lb container rose to the top of the carousel in the baggage area at JFK last, alone, uncushioned by the underwear and inflatable party dolls packed in the suitcases that now circled below, waiting for the Sad Men on Vacation Society of Kamloops to retrieve. It took a plunge down the ramp, smashed rather unsweetly into the overpacked suitcase of Barry Breathholder, Grand HooHaa of the Society, burst open and spilled its gooey insides over all the bags. As they continued to go round, the honey acted like a paste, until they all came together in a pile that looked like a beehive, because Gary didn’t listen to his customer.

Gary the Beekeeper grew up in a home where he had to listen to and do whatever anyone else told him to do, and throughout his childhood and adolescence, he complied, not wanting to upset his one-armed Momsy, who threatened him by saying “If I only had two arms, I’d crush your head in them like a vise until your brains oozed out your ears”. As a result, as an adult he developed an averse reaction to doing whatever any one else told him to do. The shrinks never saw such an extreme case before, publishing their work in the psychiatry journals with the diagnosis of “bupkisitis”, so named because they could do nothing about it.

Gary the Beekeper learned to adapt. When he opened his one man beekeeping business he put up signs all over the place “Do not tell proprietor to wash hands after using” in the bathroom; “Do not tell proprietor what you want, point” over the counter; “Do not tell proprietor how you want your change” on the cash register. This worked out well for the most part, and since his was a local business, and people got to know him, he did pretty good.

But then this New York Man came in and bossed him around, pack it good, put it in a sturdy box with plenty of packing, tie it tight. Bupkisitis kicked in, and he didn’t do any of it. Now look at the mess he was in, probably have to pay to replace all the damaged suitcases, the New York Man might sue him, he would have to replace the lost honey, all because he didn’t listen to the customer.

Momsy was right, Gary the Beekeeper concluded. The sweet dreams at night of him crushing her head in his two arms until her brains came out her ears were inverted to the nightmare of her crushing his head in her legs, her one arm waving in the air like a bronco buster as she screamed “The customer is always right”.

So when the New Man came in, Gary the Beekeeper fought all his instincts to do the opposite. The New Man had with a him a hive of bees of his own, placed them on the counter and said “Two months”. “Pardon me, Mr. New Man, what do you mean?” “Two months. I want you to keep them for me for two months.” “I don’t do that, this is a shop where I sell honey.” “What do you mean? The sign out front says ‘Gary the Beekeeper’, so I fully expect you to keep my bees for me for two months. But whatever you do, don’t let them out to collect pollen and produce honey, it will be too heavy when I pick it up.”

Gary the Beekeeper fought all his instincts, and in a return to the womb, complied. Besides, his old bees had been taken from him by the Sacramento Bee police as a result of the JFK incident, he was running out of honey to sell, and maybe Momsy was right, after all. Letting the bees produce honey sent him onto a huge guilt trip, but he had no choice if he were to eat, oh I am such a baddie afterall, he thought over and over.

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Two months came and went, the New Man never returned. Officer Opium came by that day and told Gary the Beekeeper that the New Man crashed on the winding Santa Cruz Hills road on his way back, tumbling into the ocean. As they couldn’t find him, no way of identifying him, Gary the Beekeeper might as well keep the bees.

Then the letter, and the check, came in the mail. Pan Cram decided they were at fault for the JFK incident, settled with the Kamloops Sad Men on Vacation Society for the damages to their possesions, and are enclosing a check for $10,000 for Gary the Beekeeper’s pain and suffering. With this, Gary the Beekeeper expanded his enterprise, it took off from there, and today he is known as “The Bee King of the West”.

Momsy was wrong, Gary the Beekeeper was free at last.

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Originally seen on metazen, October 29, 2009

Introducing Stella and Humphrey

June 14, 2010 9 comments

Dear Dr. Ichovitzsky:

I recently read your article, “The Sex Lives of Starfish,” and viewed the accompanying video with your photograph on its cover. I found it all most elucidating. I perfected my PHD thesis, “The Sex Life of Octopuses” (due to be published in the March edition of “Sealegs”) last night, and I must tell you that there are striking similarities between starfish and octopuses when it comes to the mating ritual; the only striking difference is (of course) the role reversal. As you discovered, it is the male starfish that gives birth, a breathtaking phenomenon, rare in nature.

When a male octopus is in heat, he wriggles his legs, just as a female starfish wriggles her points. By employing a marine audio laser, I was able to hear the subtle song of the male octopus in heat, as he wriggles his feet. Oddly enough, it sounds like a cross between Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and an obscure folk song by Bela Bartok that has never been published or performed. You can imagine: the song is riveting. It attracts all female octopuses within a radius of 31 miles. What happens next is truly esoteric. The female octopuses vie ferociously for first place with the male, forming a totally out of control football huddle. It’s exceedingly difficult to tell what’s actually going on without employing sea opera binoculars, which, as I’m sure you know, are very hard to find. I procured a pair and was thus able to discern a rhythmic flapping of a plenitude of legs all entwined. My audio laser registered a hissing whisper.

Eventually, the legs of the female octopuses form a tight sailors’ milleoctocross knot and when that occurs, the male octopus jumps onto the knot as if it were a trampoline. During the ensuing mating ritual, the male bounces on this knot at a rate of 53 bounces per second and the voices of the male octopus and the female octopuses crescendo to attain an almost inaudible high-pitched screech, similar in tonality to the death song of the Samoan conch (with which I am sure you’re familiar) but also reminiscent of the screech uttered by the male starfish.

This bouncing and screeching activity lasts for 3 to 346 seconds, depending on the age and physical endurance of the male octopus, who collapses and dies when he can no longer keep it up. At that point, the female octopuses sing a dirge remarkably similar to the 17th mournful aria sung by Isolde in that opera by Wagner.

At least half of the female octopuses give birth to baby octopuses (affectionately termed “little leggies”) within the following three days. This gestation period, is of course, identical to that of the male starfish.

I propose that we get together to discuss the ramifications of our research. Just let me know when and where and I will make myself entirely disposable. I understand that you have been studying the mating habits of the Fijian seaworm. What a fascinating project! You must tell me all about it. Incidentally, I’m 6’1,” with long red hair, green eyes, and well-developed mammary glands. Seriously, I’m kidding about the mammary glands.

Sincerely,
Stella Marinaro
(soon to be Dr. Stella Marinaro)

Margrit’s Best Friend by Walter Bjorkman

June 13, 2010 2 comments

Tante Margrit was getting used to this. It was late, and her husband Ivar was not home yet, working again into the night, digging the foundations for the Levittown Housing Projects in Long Island, just over the border from Queens. Margrit couldn’t object too much. After the depression and WW II, when it was mostly the women taking cleaning and cooking jobs to support the family, it was good to see their still not old men back at it, instead of drinking beers on the stoop or in the parks, bemoaning their lack of work. It was also good to get them out of their hair for a bit.

Levittown was the first ever planned suburbia, and there was a need for it. As the economy took off after the war, the educated professionals thrived, and wanted to spend their money on a place with a little greenery for their families, away from the swelter of the city. The prosperity spilled down to the immigrants such as Ivar and his sister Klara’s husband Axel, providing as much work as they wanted. The pay wasn’t great, but with the double shifts the wives could finally stay at home to see to their families.

Margrit was a bit flighty, to use a kind word, but in a sometimes calculated way. A few years later when they got a phone, she would call up Klara, and if either of her very young nephews answered, would ask how the weather was where they were, just four miles away. If it was August, and the boy would say “Hot, Tante Margrit” she would tell them “Oh – we just had six inches of snow here.” In January, the reverse – “It snowed six inches yesterday, kindygarden is closed” was followed by “Oh – its so hot here, I have my bathing suit on.” The nephews believed every word.

She also was the one who played Santa all those years, none of the kids ever knew, she was that well disguised and an actress, deepening her voice so well, her belly laugh shaking the walls and putting the requisite awe and fear in the kiddies.

This made her a perfect fit for Ivar, well known for antics of his own.

After a while, having her husband gone so much, Margrit got bored, so she went looking for a pet. But, it couldn’t be any pet, this was Margrit. She chose a myna bird, with her ever-skewed logic that she could have conversations with it, even though it would just repeat what she said.

Now, to tell the truth, those nights Ivar didn’t show up weren’t always because he worked a double shift. He liked to toddle every now and then, stopping in every two weeks or so at The 19th Hole, a bar a few blocks from the house, near the Dyker Beach golf course. He could cover the pay issue, for math was not Margrit’s strong point, and he was good at coming up with reasons – extra union dues, work clothes, etc. They didn’t have a phone yet, so he couldn’t call.

But Ivar knew Margrit was pretty shrewd in life matters, behind the ditzy facade, so he came up with an elaborite ruse for those nights. He didn’t want to be on the town in his mussy workclothes or cart them around; there were women at the bar, and even though he never strayed, he did like to flirt. So he would change at work, and he kept extra dirty clothes in a sack that he snuck to outside the back door in the morning, to don when he got back home, Margrit safely asleep upstairs. If she awoke upon his entering, there he was in the mud of the soon to be suburbanites.

One Thursday, the night Ivar would use to dally, Friday being payday was too obvious, Margrit needed to do laundry again. Mondays and Fridays were the normal days, but it had rained all week and she couldn’t finish on Wednesday. As she went out to the clotheslines in the backyard, she saw the sack and thought to herself “Oh, that Ivar, so silly, why didn’t he just tell me he had more laundry.” So she washed them and hung them out to dry.

That evening, Ivar ran into an old friend, and the usual four or five short beers turned into six or seven tall ones. The result was that he stayed out a few hours later, and his head was a few turns dizzier. As he came home, he searched for the sack of dirty clothes, but they were nowhere to be found. “I musha lef dem in the foyer by mistake” he thought. Ivar slurred his thought-words as well when tipsy.

As he entered the foyer, still in his glad-rags, he heard Margrit stir through the creaky floorboards above. “Uh-oh, gosta hide, cant gosh back out, she’ll hear the door close.” So he started to crawl to the kitchen table, which had a long cloth over it, down to the floor. Through the moonlight from the window, he saw Petey – Margrit gave the myna a parrot’s name, and Ivar thought fuzz-headed again, “Oops, better cover my bases.”

He lifted a finger to his lips and whispered to Petey “Shhhhhhh – don’t tell Margrit Ivar’s under the table.”

Margrit came down the stairs sleepy-eyed, looked around, saw nothing, and started to head back upstairs. “Good!” Ivar thought, peeping out from the cloth, “It worked!”

Margrit gave a turn before heading upstairs and called “Ivar, is that you?”

“Sqwaaaaaaaakk!! Don’t tell Maaaaagrit Ivar’s under the taaaaaaaaable!”

An Elephant for Arizona – by Walter Bjorkman

June 1, 2010 2 comments

 

College roommates, Bill (later to be Strangefellow, Strange for short), Bill (later to be Arizona, Zona for short) & Eddie (later to be no nickname, Ed for short) – yes tripled up, about first month in, first doobie for Arizona & me, not Strange.

Bill (soon to be Arizona): What’s with the bracelet, Bill?

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): This?

Eddie: Yeah that

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): Oh I got it growing up in Nairobi.

Bill (soon to be Arizona): Nairobi? Kenya? Africa?

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): yeah, my dad was over there working on research & treatments for cattle disease for the UN when I was 2 through10.

Eddie: Wow

Bill (soon to be Arizona): Wow

Pause for run to lobby to get pizza delivered

Bill (soon to be Arizona): What’s it made of?

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): You ordered it. peppers & mushroom.

Eddie: I think he means the bracelet, but that was cool the pizza guy messin’ up your last name Arabuena, yelling through the lobby, “Pizza for Arizona!! Pizza for Arizona!!” I don’t think its big enough for the whole state . .

All: giggle, giggle, guffaw, guffaw, cough, cough

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): Its elephant hair

Arizona (now named officially, Bill no more, later Zona for brevity): The crust?

Eddie: Bwaaaaaa!

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): Yeah the crust, tastes good (munching his) – the bracelet, Dumbo

Arizona: What bracelet?

Eddie: The one you asked him about before the pizza came, and just now

Arizona: Oh, that bracelet

All: giggle, giggle, guffaw, guffaw, cough, cough

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): Yeah its one strand of elephant tail hair

Eddie: Yeah, right that coarse.

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): True, elephants are big man

Eddie: hafta be to feed all of Arizona

All: Bwaaaaaaaa

Arizona: Where’d you get it?

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): Outside Nairobi about 30 kilometers

Arizona: You were in Africa?

Eddie & Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): Seeeeesh!

Arizona: Oh, yeah – Nairobi, so how?

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): when I was 8, they found me running in a herd of them, I pulled on a tail and it came off.                                                   

Arizona: Really? wow, the whole tail?

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): Yeah, Zona, the whole tail (eyes rolling)

Eddie: Wow, didnt you get stomped on?

Bill (soon to be Strangefellow): Naw, the adults were dozing, the calfs curious, like you guys

Arizona: My calfs, curious?

All: Bwaaaaaa, curious calfs, indifferent insoles, answering armpits, etc etc etc for 10 minutes

Later, at the home of the doobie provider Stephan Potkin, later to be known as Son of Pot:

Potkin: Spider (dark, mysterious beauty), like you to meet William, he’s a strange fellow

Spider: Huh? What’s the name? William Strangefellow? What a cool name!!

All, except Spider: Bwaaaaaaaa!! giggle, giggle, cough, cough

Arizona: Yeah and he runs with elephants.

Strangefellow: My name isn’t really Strangefellow its . . . .

All, including Spider: Bwaaaaaaaa!! giggle, giggle, cough, cough

 

 

 

Love Letter from the Last Elephant – by Darryl Price

May 28, 2010 2 comments

Love Letter from the Last Elephant
by Darryl Price

We hear all the stories
coming right up out of
the dust. We see the same
sky, the same stars. We’ve met
 
our own deaths forever.
We know what’s happening.
Because of this some of
us will come willingly

to have chains put around
our feet. Some others must
never be anything
but free. This way they can

still lead with their hearts.We
cannot save us. You could
not save yours either as
he was bleached and became

a ghost. There is little
time for this conversation
before the planet
can no longer pronounce

our names correctly. Then
there will be no one to
call us home again by
trumpet or full foot stomp.

It may sound funny to
you but we have tasted
the rain, flowers, grass;
it tastes right, we believe.

Darryl Price

Elephant – by Michelle Elvy

May 26, 2010 3 comments

Elephant

by Michelle Elvy

They say we can’t jump, and they’re probably right, but I’ve never tried truth be told.

They say they’re in charge. They say.

They say they believe in conservation, in protection; they want to save the environment. They say.

They make Animal fucking Planet but I never watch it. I’m busy here with too much sun and sky and not enough water for my baby.

They say they love animals, and they got details to prove it. They collect lists. Bulls are colorblind. Butterflies were flutterbies. Polar bears are lefties, snails like to sleep.

Do the details matter? Do the details make them feel better, feel more? Do they recall the massacres, the bodies, the wretched reek of death? Do they know my grief? It’s not in their fact list, but it is real. I am a whale of a being, and I barely exist.

Here’s what matters. I have been here for millennia, my mind stretches across space and time and knows the softest part of skin, the smell of life, the touch of memory, the taste of my mother, the sound of my brother.

Urine is essence. I piss gallons on what they say.

And I never forget.