Monday, December 29, 2014

Revision: The Nature of the Place

For this week's prompt we were to again go back to a poem we wrote this past year and revise it.  I chose to go back to one of my Laguna poems that was still driving me crazy.  And thanks to the feedback from my writing group I trimmed and trimmed and came up with this.  Hopefully, what I trimmed away was right!  This poem is about the egret specifically and how the Audubon society was actually formed just to save this one bird that was being decimated by the plume trade.  But, the poem is also about how even though (thanks to their hard work in the 1920s) the egrets are back and thriving in the Laguna, we still are stewards to their destruction.  That the damaged we've caused to their habitat will last forever and though the Laguna may now look better there is still damage lurking underneath.  Here is my newest attempt at a draft!

The Nature of the Place
"The nature of the place—whether high or low, moist or dry, whether sloping north or south, or bearing tall trees or low shrubs—generally gives hint as to its inhabitants."  --John James Audubon

Today, on the Laguna, one can still see
the shock of a white, plumed body
punctuate the space between raw, golden field,
and the open question of sky
because somehow, the Great Egret, the Snowy Egret
and the Cattle Egret have survived.

Once the Laguna pulsed, the heart of the plume trade.
Desperate hunters climbed high into scrub oaks and willows
to raid the egrets’ giant stick nests
for aigrettes, white waterfalls of long, thin feathers
used to adorn fashionable hats
because an ounce of feathers was worth
double the price of gold.
Soon, spotting an egret became so rare
sightings were printed in the local paper.

Until the Audubon society was formed
to rescue these ghost birds from extinction.
to slow the pulse of the plume trades
and slowly the egrets numbers began to rise.

But, the nature of the place –
the lack of steelhead and salmon
swimming in the deep, green lagoons,
the felled oaks and cleared willows,
the waters gone thick with sediment –
tell the story of its inhabitants
not just of the birds, but of us.
We are stewards to the destruction we’ve caused forever.

So when you walk the smooth paths of the Laguna today
and sight the white arrow of an egret piercing
the camouflage among what is water, earth, and sky
remember the hunt that still pushes from the ground up,
and how beauty must survive.

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