Wednesday, June 22, 2011


A  Caravan of Clouds

I've joined the caravan of clouds, heading North, 
I'm traveling on foot, listening for bird song
for the rest of June--ah June!

by Loren Eisely

Magic, an anthropologist once said,
simply was from the beginning.
It was never
created or invented.
It travels across time
because of the treacherous imponderables,
like death,
with which man has to cope.

Malinowski wrote of man and human concerns
and evasions, but I
have remembered that magic
was said to be from the beginning,
the beginning left undefined,

I have lived much among animals
in a small way,
bartering with food for information,
trying to discern
whether the bright flame in the mind of man
is at all matched
in fur or feather,
for I
love forms beyond my own
and regret the borders between us.

We always  feed our cardinal family
at the kitchen window.
It took them a long time to understand this
and to come
But now,  more than one generation
has lived here, and they know
the entire ritual--
the placing of seeds,
the withdrawal of hands,
the window closed.
The prudent wait before coming.
Even the wild ones will approach doubtfully
following their mates' example.
Not magic perhaps but a kind of
unspoken learning,
they have problems like man.
Squirrels come,
pigeons interfere,
and the cardinals
are withdrawn solitary aristocrats.
they do no like to eat
at table.

Like any old emigre
I try to help them but time defeats me
with a hundred sparrows.
Yesterday moving about in my den I discovered
the pair of cardinals
sitting on a window ledge where sunflower seed
never grows
and the window is far from the food
and never opened.
It was evident
they had detected movement inside
and perhaps the strange
giving animal 
could be persuaded to change his habits if they perched there.
I did what I could.
I went back to the kitchen.  I performed the ritual
and they came in the old way.
Like man they
have problems;
like man, what works
may work again.
This is the root of magic
and science,
lifes' response to
If a thing works
you try it
and try it once more
and again
you are absolutely sure
it will never work,
then try it once more.
That is magic,
and animals and people
live or die
by the uncertainties.

I shall never forget the first redbird
to come to our hose.
Birds differ like men
and he was very different
and very beautiful.
In the morning--
and it worked because I am
a dawn riser--
he would fly back and forth along the whole
tier of windows
crying his morning song
telegraphing in quick clicks his hunger,
until I fed him.
He was, I think, practicing vocal magic
that mostly worked.
He was
the most brilliant cardinal that ever came to us,
the most responsive.
Somewhere in a few weeks he met with an accident
and the nest was deserted.
Magic runs to the beginnings of life because
life is a gift and uncertain.
Both I and the bird practiced magic and were
beginning to pass a mutual threshold.
In the mornings now I remember.
I feed the birds
but nothing like him
ever came again.
I was the sorcerers' apprentice for a little while.  I am powerless
without him.
I learned from him also how little magic can do
to stave off death
but it does not seem
the whole lesson.

I continue to feed the birds.  I wait for another
friendly magician. He convinced me
we were on the same path.
Even if no one comes
I am glad
that he made his magic work for a little while.
This is something
not given to many of us.
I miss him.
He made me happy
and is that not a kind of magic?
It is years now
but I
still lie awake and listen
in the mornings.
How does a man say to his fellows
he has been enchanted
by a bird?

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