The Angry Birds

Part of an excellent comic strip on cat killers from: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/cats_actually_kill – go on their website and buy their stuff!  (There – hopefully now he won’t mind my borrowing the picture and linking to the site…)

 

Last week, I read this story about just how many birds and other small mammals our domestic cat friends (or fiends) actually kill…And the answer is a LOT of small birds and mammals: in the USA, “between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and 6.9-20.7 billion mammals annually”. Wow.

Now I make no secret of the fact I’ve always had a patchy relationship with domestic cats, even though I had them in the family home growing up. There’s just something I don’t trust about a lot of cats. Which is not to say I don’t meet a cat sometimes I get on with – but I’m not of the mindset of a lot of cat-owners and cat-lovers who see them as these charmingly-aloof and ever-so-‘sassy’ little characters. To me, they usually seem just plain rude-aloof and scheming, not sassy. Not all cats. But yes, for me – most cats. It’s not personal, cats – it’s general.

I realise I’ll probably get ‘trolled’ for expressing my ambivalence about cats, but so be it. I’m a dog person. There we are. (And yes, I know dogs have been used to hunt for millennia.) So perhaps this story played into my feeling that cats are up to something – which is mostly irrational on my part (see dog comment). But it’s not irrational to be concerned about the amount of wildlife they’re killing.

As is my first-person fashion, I wrote a piece from the birds’ perspective. And, being as it’s something of a cultural phenomenon (have you seen the amount of kids wearing Angry Birds hats?), the title references a popular app-game – adding a definite article to avoid any pesky (c)opyright issues. Hopefully? Surely?

Poetry from apps – how postmodern. Po-app-ry. Said game seems to involve hurling bird-heads (or weirdly-spherical birds) at platforms in order to destroy them. This – call me macabre (I call myself macabre) – reminded me of those little ‘gifts’ cats seem to leave on doorsteps and hence informed some of the poem. Once, a cat of ours left a blue-tit head, facing the door, the right way up and in the centre of the doormat. Aww, a….gift?

 

The Angry Birds

 

Dusk. The swish of the tear

in the door. Silence. The sky a cage

of black-blue branches. Breathing.

 

A darkness thickens our feathers,

sticks to the points of our beaks.

We petrify. By the table of bait,

it waits. A first screech flickers

life into the street-lights. Then –

reflected on narrow green eyes –

a manicured lawn of limbs.

 

The baby ape takes in tiger cubs.

We watch you through the glass,

face alight, twiddling your thumbs.

Playing games in the night,

with our heads.

 

From up here, we look down on

the pastel television-picture within:

Kitty returns, is named, tickled under the chin;

delicately purrs at an opening tin.

 

And you, unwitting napkin,

with blood all over

your hunter’s hands.

 

 

And the news story by which the poem was inspired: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21236690

 

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774 or, Darkling Child

"Two vortices their nuptials swore..."

“Two vortices their nuptials swore…”

 

I’ve been continuing to read Paul Matthews’ excellent book on writing, Sing Me The Creation. One of his various suggestions on how to extend the imagination through writing practice (particularly working together, as a group), is to have a go at rewriting a style of repeated-simile poem, like this famous one:

There was a man of double deed,
Who sowed his garden full of seed;
When the seed began to grow,
‘Twas like a garden full of snow;
When the snow began to melt,
‘Twas like a ship without a belt;
When the ship began to sail,
‘Twas like a bird without a tail;
When the bird began to fly,
‘Twas like an eagle in the sky;
When the sky began to roar,
‘Twas like a lion at my door;
When my door began to crack,
‘Twas like a stick across my back;
When my back began to smart,
‘Twas like a penknife in my heart;
And when my heart began to bleed,
‘Twas death, and death, and death indeed.

………………………………..………—Anonymous

It’s strangely compelling and vortex-like, I thought – drawing you into the images, then on to the next, then on to the next. A kind of chain reaction in verse and simile, ending in doooooooooooom.

So it struck me that it might be a suitable vehicle to write about a science story from last week – that of the’discovery’ (if that’s the right word – it happened a while ago) that during the Middle Ages (774-775, to be precise) a kind of ‘Cosmic Burst’ (or Bang – you decide) hit the Earth. And now, scientists are in more accord that it was due to two black holes or neutron stars merging in our galaxy – sending a big ol’ Gamma Ray-Fest our way (Hulk references, anyone?).

However, it seems it barely even ruffled any tunics, or whatever it was that folks were wearing at that time (which would have varied a great deal globally, of course). Instead, it deposited  some unusual radiation signatures in the ice of Antarctica and the cedar trees of Japan, only now being deciphered. And this is what has led to accord about the distant union of two black holes/neutron stars. Anyway, the link is at the bottom of the page – I shan’t mangle the science any further here.

But before that, my take on the simile-vortex verse form – using this news story as a starting point. (Perhaps black holes in verse require such a vortex/vortices, form and subject aligning?) I tried to stay true to the form as much as possible, including a ‘dreich’ and bleak repetitive ending. I hope you enjoy it…

 

774

or, Darkling Child

 

 

In seven-hundred and seventy-four,

Two vortices their nuptials swore;

As they swore, the rings did shatter,

Twas like a child of darkling matter;

When that child swam through the dark,

Twas like a silent toothless shark;

When that shark began to bite,

Twas like a breath in dead of night;

When that breath it ceased to blow,

Twas like a wilting flake of snow;

When that snow began to melt,

Twas like a kiss that was not felt;

When that kiss began to frown,

Twas like the seas turned upside-down;

When the seas began to wave,

Twas like the turning of a grave;

And when that grave it did open,

Twas over and over and over again.

 

And so to the original BBC Science story by Rebecca Morelle:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21082617