Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Water Ouzel

I wrote the following poem after spending over an hour watching a bird that is common to the Sierra streams called the water ouzel. The ouzel is very much at home in the fast, churning waters of the high Sierra streams, so much so that I called the poem "Ouzel Country."


The skin of the stream stretches
and contorts across the fine
shapely tracks of its bed.
Taut and smooth over the young pools,
then wrinkling forth
into a confusion of rocks,
dividing into cracks like pine bark.
Hormonal rapids spew passsion
across shoals, their gush
dies out into liquid ease.

The ouzel negotiates all this
water busyness with insouciance
in the face of ripple and roar.
A quick rock curtsey, a flutter
of underwater wings, vestigial
oars and rudder tail. She rifles
through riffles, dives into that
conversation between snowmelt,
granite, gravity, current,
bobs up and out...and in again.

The lodgepoles drop in their triplets
of brown needles, and above, the aspens,
their perfect leaves, yellow
as infant suns, turning.

In our chairs on the bank,
feeling it all swim, we are
in some world that prevails,
fed from the tick of rock,
the tock of ice, the glacial
heartbeat, old, measured.