Sunday, March 27, 2005

Galveston birdwatching notes

Listen to the seawall's thunder, breaking the slow trough and tilt of the hurricane Gulf, unresting wormgear sea, muffled drum whose drumroll is time. A long tectonic horizon evaporates islands in effortless winds like bubbles hissing on a wave, a moment, a foamy drift gone in the sun, a vision.
Flying wedges of clumped live oaks hunker down recoiling from the saltsting wind. In a marshbound inlet a pair of hooded mergansers bob like hunters’ decoys, in dark water dead-flat as poured mercury. Behind the ducks march armies of soldier green sedge and spikerush, shouted rapiers waving chaotically against the sullen gray sky, pricking the empty wind.
The marshes merge with the drier land windward, fields of slicing weeds where flocks of geese, sandhill cranes, and white ibises graze wintering against the mind's grain in a grass of a million papercuts, wisps of brown pixels whispering across the retina, a rasping landscape lumpy with outcrying birds.
The birds, tuning their orchestra, browse on the bottom of an unseen bell jar of sound, gargles, wheezes, honks, creaks, gobbles, coughs, and barks, a constant noise of electron-swarm density.
A shrike crouches on a wire, insane with alertness.
A semipalmated plover drills in receding surfwrack.
A plodding willet gulps a fingerfish.
A Caspian tern, gliding down an invisible wire in an arc, suddenly comes untethered--the bird drops, military like a vaned shell flashing into the sea, beyond the windy beach.
Pelicans, like old newsreels of flying boats, lumber over the wave tops, on a cushion of inches.
A harrier flows up over a thicket (where the wild grass tangles in a ribcage of black winter sticks) in a background radiation tonality of menace, growling cannons offshore.

I think of the meaty thrash of sailfish standing the wave tops. I think of a previous aerial view of this membranous shrinkwrap sea, the Gulf of Mexico seen from the approach to Houston like a wrinkling skin delicately aging.
Porpoises rise, breach, slide into the air, and scatter the swells into sparkled beads then sound into unknown green glassliquid sucking down bubbles behind them.
The seas ride up the leg of an offshore drilling platform, lathered, subsiding. The watery molecules relax and for a moment bide their time.
The present wrapped in the invisible cloak of the past. "When the cloak falls away you will die" says a voice in my head. A neural misfire. A spark like a small bird singing on a wire.

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