WEBEXCLUSIVE

LOST AND FOUND ANIMALS
a misplaced bestiary
Part I: Found Animals b/w The Noise Rhapsodic Owl

 

 

PART I: FOUND ANIMALS

 

                        l

ant
sail of a leaf
in its mouth

 

                        2

buffalo
the watery kind
makes moonlight
feel like mush

 

                        3

the badger
claws through
his death

 

                        4

cobra
in whose eyes
the world is swaying

 

                        5

a dead
crocodile
purse
of leaves

 

                        6

the crab
raises a sheet of air
in his pincers

 

                        7

space
between the sounds
of a field
of crickets

 

                        8

deer
through the leaves
sunlight
or shadow

 

                        9

eels
mating
in the depths
of the sea
so thick
they are
almost
waterless

 

                        l0

elephant of
paper
shakes
in the wind

 

                        ll

almost gone

the eagle
descends
a speck
a fist
a rock

falling

 

                        l2

a fish swims
within
his soundless shadow

 

                        l3

flea pinched
and squeezed
lives on
in the itch

 

                        l4

gulls on the beach
who watch
the movie of sunset

 

                        l5

the coughing goat
brings forth
the triumphant
rainbow

 

                        l6

straight down
the hawk
so powerful
to grab

the earth

 

 

 

                        l7

heron
a quiet
watcher of sky
in the water

           
                        l8

the tone
of the hummingbird
expands inside me

 

                        l9

in the meadow
the sun has combed
the mane
of a peaceful horse

 

                        20

the legs
of the ibex
bent
in the water

 

                        2l

jellyfish
trembling
trembling
sieves of light

 

                       

            22

jackals
in groups
silent
at the funeral

 

 

                        23

kite
without string
comes down
goes up

                        24

kestrel diving
and fish diving
as it dives

 

                        25

is it the same
loon that dove into
the lake’s reflection
a few hours ago?

 

                        26

how many animals
have lived
in the lion's yawn?

 

                        27
moth
on the wall
asleep

listening
to the light
shake
around him

 

                        28

manatee
quietly
eating
the leaves of light

 

                        29

musk oxen
leaning
on the wall
of the Arctic
wind

 

                        30

in body or mind
what does it really matter
to the nightingale?

 

                        31

the octopus
loose
hair
falling
through the sea

 

                        32

owl flying
through a door
of outer darkness

 

                        33

panther
two small lights
in his shadow

 

                        34

phoenix
the world
each instant

 

                        35

peccary
his growl
scrubs the bushes

 

                        36

the porcupine
combs itself
and all
the grain
in the wood
shivers
for an instant

 

                        37

quail
resonant seeds
of the bush

 

                        38

raccoon
reading
the book of the rain

 

                        39

rhinoceros
with the moon
on his horn

 

                        40

fossilized spiders
spread out
on the retina
of an older
darkness

 

                        41

the sponge
sighs
when it breathes

 

                        42

the tick
tries to
paint himself
inwardly
red

 

                        43

the trout
gives birth
to its striped shadows

 

                        44

the turkey
more upon principle
than life allows

 

                        45

the turtle
carries a sky
inside his shell

 

                        46

the unicorn
doesn't exist
without help

 

                        47

vulture
judge
of the silent court

 

                        48

whale
rolling over
in bed

 

                        49

the yak is so
patient
with the wind

 

                        50

zebra
a prisoner
only
in his body



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART II: LOST ANIMALS

 

 

The Noise-Rhapsodic Owl


Any musician will say that noise has no relation to music.  Rhapsody, on the other hand, is the spiritual atmospheric essence of being, the highest, most ultimate refinement of our deep-founded conception of penetrative sound, the expression of the self’s vibrations through sound, the glory of the expanded, sound-filled ears, the delight of sound or a worldscape moving in memory, a brilliancy trembling with tones and color that ripple through vibrating eyes.  Without it, we would exist as a deflated ocean, reduced to matter and matter only and obey the laws of the inanimate rather than the other, the more refined, the more transcendent ones. For music is the body’s outward, spiritual, kinetic shadow.  Noise, on the other hand, consists of any random series of sounds, and having no definite spiritual-logical, sense—aural extensions filling the air with its abandoned quivering isolation, or perhaps and informed (we might say) “de-cadence within “de-cadence”. Still, we may recognize, in the merging of noise and music, that the world was brought forth into another light on the hinges of something beyond either noise or music, from something much greater and incomprehensibly more vast. Most living things with highly integrated instinctive responses can at some level imitate the noise around them or else, even lacking the ability to communicate through sound, create their own noise as an automatic response ability. Or often they are capable of both, noise and meaning through sound.  However, the plangent, expansive sounds of cicadas or the concentric howling of wolves seem to point us to no original on which they might be based.  They paint for us (and others) the language of an automatically generated in-pouring of instinct rather than the sensed-at outpouring of some expansive, esthetically “in-toned” music. Who knows, for example, what any species of bats may feel about their sounds, sound that we, with our limited hearing, perhaps unfortunately, cannot hear; perhaps, we think, they have a music of their own.  These animal "phonemes"—owl or wolf or bat or cicada, built up, in some cases, over millions of years—have an edged, or limited, applicability, at least for ourselves, and, most important, we feel, lack a “de-rigidified” stability and, in our terms, are incapable of the grip of any useful vibratory generalization.  They are used as a response to one or a limited group of immediate one-to-one encounters, that is, unique, repetitive situations, and they are not created for the occasion when a new reality presents itself. 

Though animal "phonemic" or rather, mimetic, systems do indeed exist, they feel restrictive when we compare them to the linguistic play of our own species.  Indeed, how could familiarity not breed a certain amount of contempt? And what we might call “the species music” remains limited to our own ears and understandings, with the grand exceptions of some animals, like whales, who seem to communicate through music and glory in it. Hyenas, doves, snakes, bees, and most vertebrates, have a built-in biological sense of sound.  But does music grow out of their search for a language of sound or is it "trapped" by instinct and left to wander in circles until it has burned a hole through their existence?

But although owls seem to belong to this vast category, their sounds, hauntingly opaque and filled with an echoing emptiness, reminding anyone who has heard them of the full moon (a mythology with which they are associated), often sound like the music of the soul—a lost, empty soul, but nevertheless a soul.  Their cries, as they float among the immensely extended forest of the northern taiga or over the flat, coolie-locked farm country of the sky-widened Midwest, are opaquely beautiful to our ears (and more to their own).  And it would almost seem—as we listen to their pure and intelligible utterances, specified by pauses and repetitions, a level of pitch all their own and an overtone series like a key of hearing (which sound-prints all vibration onto its moorings in space and in all its variable sizes)—almost seem that the voice of owls turns toward us their sometimes available instrument, extended within the inner air of our ears (the net by which they and we are caught), the instrument of the forest or wood yard or barn which it chooses to inhabit.

The sounds of all owls have a high level of harmonic distinction, but when we see them as a whole in the rainbow of their musical paintings, the harmony of owls lifts us out of our pre-printed, pre-absorbed selfhood into another, perhaps larger sonic world and into other unknown until now dimensions because their variety remains with us as a guest of our deeply aural language; for the invitation travels along the variably expanding and contracting call of these powerfully sonic birds, whatever they may be reaching out towards (even beyond ourselves), wherever they may exist in their sonic openings.

Yet in order to allow this interactive, intelligible sound to persist, there has to be a corresponding field of noise, far greater than the call of owls could reach, one that extends into and beyond the limits of that resonant bird’s own world, a noise that envelops intelligibility. This environment of noise is a kind of sonic net in which the calls of these so musical of musical animals are caught.  Their music is like the inside of an egg in which a new owl, an owl of organized vibration, will live, until it grows into its own world and, with it,grows its own grammatically sonic sensibility.

The haunting music of these nocturnal birds has extended itself outward and inward to a pure flame these last fifty or so million years, millions of years of joined directionality, until now it burns with its unmistakable presence, purified at each conquest, at each silent grasping of mouse or wood rat; and, at the expense of its environment, it has been growing slowly, ever so slowly, ever so continually, continuously, inexorably purified, growing more smoothly more immaculately pure, integrated through the environment which, indeed, sought it out so that it might reside there in the relative comfort of the living.

If we listen closely to their call, we will hear something more than the present.  If we listen—-species to species, with all our bodies and with all of our history; the history of our species and of owls, listen together—in their night cries which drift so fully, so softly on the winds of a summer or winter darkness all their own—that enlarged history will emerge in their sense-blown, windy, sonic image; and we will hear it, that sound of sounds, as a total communion of possibilities inherent in our own human struggle to burn up the wrinkled edges of the dark, to illuminate with the species-candle we contain within and around us, our essential message in the conversation we hold with the spirit of the unformed.

For is it not their night, too?  They rise within it, into this dense, message-laden dye that comes off in waves or the flakes of waves within us, filling the pit into which we are slowly, inexorably descending, as they extend, for others and for themselves, a "noise" into which they have been born, borne out of the deep pit of an ultimate disappearance, and out of which they have emerged, their wings made from that rippling sonic dye with its totally fragile meanings and from which over the ages they have attempted to define themselves in flight after flight. 

And they sing, yes, sing in the harmonics of loosed vibration, for it is noise, noise itself, which is trying, with all its energy, to leap into form, to discover spirit, that other world like the sky descending as if into a shadowy and extended beyond.  The noise itself in its unformed essence is trying to sing at the height of its continually present but unexplainable ability and at the true limits of its lengthened, planetary gravity.  The noise is trying to sing, out from itself and simultaneously to the others, within itself to all the others, within and beyond its self-eliminating class and invented species, invented in the act of singing. And its success? Its success is now in the owl, folded into its feathers and grasping claws with which it seizes the unknown and the unknown enters it, fully, quietly completed.

Therefore, it was greatly to our fortune and to, indeed, the well-founded fortune of our species as a whole—struggling to listen through all the cells of our collective bodies and beyond, to listen also well within the cells of all living things (in fact, within the voice of our collective, living planet)—to discover this unique and valuable bird, the long awaited, long emerging, aria-creating bird of both micro and macro phonics, The Noise-Rhapsodic Owl.  Its success as a species—limited in number as it is, and emerging from that vast species logic we glimpse only in the briefest flashes of a fleeting recognition—that success, we say, comes from its use of noise for its own benefit, directly drawing upon it as the font of all wisdom and virtue, terror and obedience; for its pure and harrowing and otherworldly overtones of magic and mystery descend upon us and upon all the others, as sky and stars and rain descend, allowing our spirits and the spirits of forest and marsh and fen and tundra and swamp and meadowland and the creatures that inhabited these deceptive depths and who never knew its surprises, to emerge from their chaos of sound refreshed, as if from a bath of aural dreaming.

Listening to it—in woods too deep to bear our music alone or alone with ourselves only, in summer’s sunlit wheat fields where the sky turns on us as a choral burden, lifting the ear a few inches off its foundations of history and struggle in the infinitely weighted present, or among old buildings (crumbled to dense, dream-laden powder), where our past lives may wander silently and indeed where other shadows lay their organs of sense inside and outside and in-between themselves, interweaving the folds of their bodies—we hear, perhaps as we have always heard, then, now, and at that endless succession of pure and unpurposely merged, monumental moments, the real noise-rhapsody of our ears, the sound we knew had proceeded our beings like the magnificent trumpet blast of all creation, and we are in love for the first time, in love with its central appeal, which is that noise and music are inseparable.


 




The Brooklyn Rail is proudly featuring Lost and Found Animals as a web exclusive serial through the Fall and well into 2017.

Contributor

Sid Gershgoren

Sid Gershgoren has published six books of poetry and prose: The books of poetry: Negative Space, Mutual Breath (a book of 65  villanelles), Symphony (a medium long poem in a "symphonic" form), Through the Sky in the Lake (a book of "lines"), The Wandering Heron (a book of haiku), and two prose works, Past Rentals (a fictional "catalog" of a company that rent its "customers" space, place, and situation in a particular area of the past within a particular time, place, and situation), and The Extended Words (an imaginary dictionary). Sid Gershgoren has published widely in various magazines and anthologies. 

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