Thirteen Things the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know about Blackbirds

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1.
New rule in your city:
Everything you know about blackbirds
Is about to change.

2.
The blackbird told me
One simple trick
To get the IRS off my back.

3.
Check out these
Hilarious blackbird fails!

4.
Revealed: secrets
Of the world’s richest blackbirds.

5.
Click here to view
Celebrity nude blackbirds!!!

6.
I am Nigerian prince
Recently come to possession
Of substantial Blackbirds.
Transmission of a small sum
To pay Customs duty
Enables their release to you.

7.
Watch how this chance meeting
Between two blackbirds
Erupts into violence.

8.
The unblinking eye
Of the blackbird
Is our last bulwark
Against terrorism.

9.
Here are six wild predictions
That came true
About a blackbird.

10.
Yes! Yes!
Blackbird!

11.
Red wing; black bird;
The all-in-all.
It takes millions of colors
To make this clear
So buy a new phone now

12.
Secret brain pill blackbirds are using
May soon let them
Replace humans.

13.
True science:
This blackbird
Kept in a sealed box
Was both alive and dead
And neither.

 

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Edna St. Vincent Millay (a clerihew)

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Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare…

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Was heard on occasion to say
That only the author of Euclid’s Elements
Had ever seen Beauty without habiliments.

One supposes she meant to imply that people who do maths
Have taken quite the best of all available paths
And that study of the other sciences might be eschewed
If one wished for a chance to see Beauty nude.

But I wonder what she’d have said had she lived to learn
About the physicists at CERN
Who have managed to catch the Higgs Boson
Without any clothes on?

 

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Albert Einstein got panics (a clerihew)

“As I have said so many times,
God doesn’t play dice with the world.”

Albert Einstein

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Albert Einstein got panics
From quantum mechanics;
He would have found the world far nicer
Had God not been a dicer.

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A Song for Music, with Music, and Ham Kicker

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“A Following Song” is a songAlex Floor wrote the music and recorded it. As songs sometimes do, this one has changed its monicker: you may call it “They Went Their Ways.” It joins Stone’s Throw, which the redoubtable Godescalc (more mundanely, James) brilliantly set to music some time ago…

The thing came about this time because I once happened across the oddly-named Ham Kicker website, “an exhibition of collaborative musical work”:

Poets are encouraged to submit poetry. Songwriters are encouraged to work with poets and their poems to develop songs. Performers are encouraged to interpret or reinterpret songs.

So I sent Ham Kicker’s proprietor (turns out his name is Joe) a poem to put up on the site, and forgot about it for more than a year. And then, a while ago, Joe let me know that Alex had written and recorded music for what is now indisputably a Song. Which made me happy, as you might guess, for it’s a lovely song.

Here is the Hamkicker post introducing the thing; here (again) is the song in all its mp3-compressed glory; there’s sheet music! (I love sheet music!) Here, for some reason, is an undated interview with Joe.

And why not, here’s the poem again, with its new title:

They Went Their Ways

Down by the hill, or lower down,
The larks and lizards built a town.
They sang for fun and lay in the sun
And life was easy.

Seasons came, and came, and came,
And some were different, some the same;
The flowers grew, and blossomed, and blew,
And life was easy.

But a lark grows bold to stretch its wing
While a lizard sleeps and dreams of spring.
So the larks forgot – what the lizards did not –
That life is easy.

Then they went their ways, no one knew why,
Some to the desert and some to the sky,
With the turning spheres and the passing years,
Like life, so easy.

 

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“You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks”

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“You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks,” he had explained in his brief and vigorous style.
Brave New World

You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks
You can’t teach her to play dead or dance
Though you whip or reward her, malign or implore her,
She won’t fetch, beg, speak or shake hands.

You can’t teach a rhinoceros tricks
Not because she’s not worthy or fun
The rhinoceros goes where she wants to go
And will do what she always has done.

Try to teach a rhinoceros tricks
The results uniformly are gruesome
And the worst thing of all is, it’s quite possible
It may end up with her teaching you some.

 

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Maybe I should have been

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Maybe I should have been
a nature poet, talking up
clouds and lakes,
wolves and rabbits,
the coyote, the honeybee, the scorpion.

Maybe I should have spent my time
traveling from desert to climax forest,
traveling from valley to mountainside,
talking forest fires, rolling fog,
the endless waves that munch seaside cliffs,
the fantastical desert arches
that occupy our cross section of time,
snails, beetles, microbes, grizzly bears,
and how everything fails and is reborn.

Maybe I’ll let go of my newspaper
this time, maybe
I’ll move to the suburbs and write about
a drowned man, maybe
I’ll go to work for a bank
and write about a drowned man,
maybe after writing about the sea
all my life, it will be a happy ending
to load my pockets with stones
and wade to meet the rising tide.

Maybe I’ll go to work for an insurance company
and write about ice cream.

Maybe I will yet.
Meanwhile, just to remind me
that it’s not all over,
here comes that blackbird again,
calling to see if I’m ready yet
to do the next thing.

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the walk at last

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come along come come come

that is fine
no no need for that and no time

for the need to account for the world is a pressing need

for instance that squirrel

must be put into her proper slot SHARP! SHARP! SHARP! SHARP!

ah

the wellfed mastiff was
here
at this
shrub
since the rain stopped
well well we will see about that
now
all done
come along shall we here is a street for us to walk along I’ll show you the way
this way
this way
this
a moment
I’m sure there’s something
here
all right
let us keep on
come along?
there that’s fine

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The Joiner Had a Vision of God’s Glory

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Tell how you came to drudge in my kitchen
you child of the sheltering sky.
Who were your people?
Where did you get that hair, those blue eyes?
And that we’ll all of us be worms’-meat one day—
is that why you scoff at us?

The wildflowers were abashed
when the fountain burst from frozen ground
and the ice formed complicated branches
as if to demonstrate how much remained to be done.
They have scattered to the far fields,
and now must be counted again.

The roofer practices his trade,
he grows strong off his need for others.
The reseller of goods heard the drone of the chanting,
and the night grew pale.
The conference of geologists has been disbanded:
the earth is strong enough without them.

 

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All Quiet for the Queen (a prequel)

(Being an account of the Peculiar Events leading up to the Monstrous and Notorious Tragedy of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds who were martyred by being baked into a pie; and of the Warning previously issued to all Fowl within the Royal Earshot, which these aforementioned Blackbirds roundly ignored, to their own Detriment and Ultimate Demise; written by one, Witness to the Aforesaid Events.)

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Go quietly, quietly! Quell every sound,
You geese in the air and you quails on the ground!

You ducks with your querulous ducklings in tow,
You may go as you like; only quietly go.

No quacking; no quarreling; quash every cry;
Not a chirp from you blackbirds who quarter the sky!
The queen is asleep:
If you cease not to peep
She’ll awake and demand you be baked in a pie!

 

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