Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mockingbird


Along the banks of the Lower Colorado. Quiet weekdays of river watching and the blooms beginning in the palo verde that crowd the dry washes. Abert’s towhees singing in chorus and the first migrants have been seen, working their way towards their breeding grounds. Their journey from south to north and then back again another stitch in the weaving that is their life. The combined journeys of all the winged a great feathered quilt rising and falling across the Americas. Through the season, years, eons.

On the weekends, the trailer park is transformed, flooded with people from the city and beyond. Enormous Latino families with intoxicating spreads of food, all day bbqs, blissed out ninos chasing each other and norte music keeping time to this jovial picnicking. Inked and hulking dads in their chromed monster trucks backing their chromed monster boats into the river. These boats reaching insane speeds on the water, screaming upriver and spurting a great arc of water behind. The expressions of the on-board children and petite, immaculate wives a mix of panic and glee. The face of the father is always unmoved, steely mouth and eyes unknowable behind mirrored sunglasses. Pontoon houseboats slowly chugging by, occasionally docking in some reeds for a time, sending flocks of yellow-headed blackbirds upwards, their chorus of chainsaw calls dopplering as they flee. These houseboat sailors more elderly, rotund and hammered, whooping and gesturing to the revered youth that dominate and make spectacle on the river. Retired river warriors now resigned to analysis and voyeurism.

A Gila woodpecker flies across the water, alights in some eucalyptus where grackles are panting and painting the air with their otherworldly calls and clicks. Bullock’s orioles are beginning to build their orb nests in these trees, fishing line and green plastic Easter grass among the list of construction materials. Wintering snowbirds from Canada, perfectly bronzed, never without a drink, everything done one-handed, bump along the trailer park in their golfcart, outfitted with flotation devices, a cooler bungeed down in back and a Jolly Rogers flag streaming above, pool noodles dragging behind in the dirt.

On a small patch of lawn a turtle is digging a hole for to bury her eggs. A gang of 6 boys pedaling laps around the park, bare of foot and chest, hungry for action, dodging between water and roadcraft on their way to nowhere.  A mother slapping the mouth of her toddler that has possibly eaten an oleander flower, reaching in and digging around for the toxic bloom. Last seen scooping up the child and running away, sobbing.

And at night, every night, a mockingbird begins to sing.

He waits until after sunset, for the din and clamor of the day to ebb. A few fires can be seen along the river. Starlight is mirrored, twisted then drowned in the slow moving water. The mockingbird begins and does not stop until the dawn, when his storytelling momentarily mixes with that of the other birds. During the night, under the half-moon, swollen as if with tears, he has the air all to himself. He is telling the story of the day. Updates of the night, drama as it unfolds in real time as well. Mockingbird as bard. Predictions are included in the opus. Mockingbird as revelator. Arrivals of neotropical migrants are announced as they pass overhead during their nocturnal movements north. Puns are hurled at these night travelers.

I wake at midnight, two, four. Always he is singing. Speaking in tongues. Polyglottos.

Whisper’d me through the night, and very plainly before day-break 

Like a vapor creeping under the door, wafting down from the AC unit, Whitmanwords come to me in these early hours…

Creeping thence steadily up to my ears
and laving me softly all over

Beneath the singing, in chorus with the tireless balladeer, I can hear the old crone,

rocking the cradle, swathed in sweet 
garments, bending aside

It is the faint hissing of the river, its melody unmistakably now. It has been whispering through the night. Will sing all the morrow and all the morrows of my life.

Death, death, death, death 

Mostly, I am this river. I’ve been drinking it for months. I can feel it eddy and pool inside of me, coursing headlong towards its terminus, its great release, delaying not, hurrying not. 

The mockingbird goes silent as the blackbirds begin their day and Monday slowly dawns. The crowds have cleared out and the trailer park has grown quiet again. From our spot we can see a couch washed up on a sandbar across the river. Later a jet ski, unmanned and capsized, passes by. The turtle eggs have been excavated and consumed, a pile of dirt and shell shards where yesterday we watched the mother laboring. An oriole rummages through the leaf litter and garbage, searching for its next piece of nest. A skunk, egg-breathed and bellyfull, saunters down towards the river. The shoreline is strewed with beer cans that glitter in the gathering sunlight.




Today's guest post was brought to you by the ineffable Cassidy Grattan, who has wrought and brought Green Honeycreeper and many other stories. May they never stop.

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