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tree meditations and others 241
At the museum (O Mousa) I learn
from the stuff ed specimen
that the brown pelican
(I've watched his homely fl ight
through binoculars from shore)
wears a crest of down
too small to be visible from shore;
and it has nothing to contribute
to the legend of pelican charity.
Then there are the living owls
in a cage outside; they glare out
with a pre-Hellenic stare
like the old Athena -- glare
at nothing, apparently, soberly
The porcupine nearby is
humped up, motionless, reeking,
against the dirty glass -- his dull
eye opens and peers up
through the stench incuriously.
Once a neighbor told me
that when fi ghting forest fi res
as a youth he saw porcupines burning --
they'd run screaming into the brush
spreading the fi re up a hillside,
and the men would curse them, and to whose credit
or discredit should this be accounted.