July 03, 2006

Listening to the animals

Wittgenstein famously ventured that if a lion could talk, we could not understand him.  But suppose we could.  Poet Judith Barrington suggests that we might not want to listen.  From Barrington's Horses and the Human Soul (Ashland OR: Story Line Press, 2004), the poem "Crows" (offered on today's Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor):


Crows startle the clouds
with grievances never resolved
and warnings blurted into thin air.

Once in a while, the cries of all those who tried to survive
pour from the funnels of their throats.
No wonder we never really listen.

Like most animals, crows tell the truth:
working hard to penetrate our tiny tubular ears,
they cackle on telephone lines while we watch TV.

Once I did listen to a crow, but even when I had heard
his whole story, there was nothing I could do.
Next, I thought, I'd have to listen to squirrels and coyotes.

I like to think I deal with my share of rotten truths
but I couldn't bear to kneel down in damp grass
and listen to the hedgehog or the mole.

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at July 3, 2006 09:53 AM