Jellied Moments of Disjecta Membra by Jack Phillips
Though poetry for us is a communal act the pandemic has rendered it a solitary affair of disjecta membra so this morning from a friend came a fragment and it reads
to be understood, it must be experienced as a type of jelly
and taking the form of a one-line haiku or an American sentence after the manner of Ginsberg it is so so true in so many ways for rhubarb (that tartness may have a say) for salamanders (that they may breathe and slink and breed and be) for marrow for the baking dog biscuits and for those who spread it on toast as marmalade.
An excellent morning poem and wildly born brings the poet and the reader to that jellied moment of generativity somewhere between the crust of reality and the goo that makes it go or perhaps it came to him as he lost his swamp-shoe in the soft bottom or recalled the time I dared him to eat the green gunk in a bean-pod or maybe and most likely beneath the slickering velocity of Vallonia pulchella or snail of another sort or slug.
*Becoming a Naturalist, Part 57. Poetic fragment by Joe Janowski.
Dalea purpurea, purple prairie clover. Fremont County, Iowa. (Robert Smith.)
Hello! I’ve been reading Black Elk Speaks this week and came across a part that I wanted to share with you.
In what feels like a different lifetime, we talked about Emerson’s essay Circles, and Rilke “living [his] life in widening circles” and of course there was the circle in the snow drawn by someone named Jack and the way that ephemeral artists like Andy Goldsworthy also make the sacred shape with leaf and stone!
Well now, this book has directed me to more evidence (as if I needed more) that circles have a wild power about them. I am certainly paying more attention to the overlooked circles again.
From Black Elk Speaks:
“Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…”
A poem for birds and their circles:
The birds are still loudly praying/ I hope they don’t ever stop/ the birds are the worst kind of sage/ I asked one grackle if he knew his name/ he didn’t reply/ this bird was the kindest sage/ I asked him if he knew his nest was sacred/ he knew what I was going to say/ before I could say it/ he continued praying
-Joelle Wellansa Sanfort
Joelle Wellansa Sanfort is Naturalist-in-Residence at TNS.
The Naturalist School is on pandemic hiatus but poets were nonetheless observed at social distance on the first morning of summer. Photo by Shyla Punteney.
Spike and First Funk of Summer
(Becoming a Naturalist Part 56)
by Jack Phillips
So boasted Thoreau of milking the sky for metaphors but why drink of grammars and not of the earth herself trade bottle for the udder and bobber for the carp sucking trope and rhyme not nectar and blood?
The forest gives us birdsong the canopy leaks of tanagers a bass parting duckweed in flight grabs a dragonfly a fungus from a stump coyote on a kill a hole in the solstice dribbles out toads.
Write your odes to nature but praise the tick and spike and funk the itch that reminds you that language is made of spit and of tongue every thought has a scent every poem comes with juices.
They say in these woods the poets go naked and above in high meadows but alone on the bank in flannel and barefoot the morning is cool. Does a poem spawn within her or stick with the muck or skitter with turtle as she dips in the pond?
Friends of The Naturalist School, please remember us on Wednesday, May 20th for Omaha Gives!
We’re looking forward to our weekly workshops and saunters when we can gather once again, but in the meantime we’re still counting dragonflies and other marvelous creatures, creating chemical-free urban nature preserves, saving and planting native trees, and supporting our friends in their search for a deeper intimacy with the natural world.
We’ll see you in the bush before too long, we hope!
We give our hands to healing earth, put skin to good science, add our quiet voices to the music of woods and meadows, open ourselves to creativity within and all around and to help others do the same.
Even now in these pandemic days, The Naturalist School friends and members continue our work each in our own way, earth in our hands and under our feet, exploring wildness where we find it and making our back yards and neighborhoods ever wilder.
We hope to see you when we can gather again, but for now you can join us in the work of wildness with a contribution in any amount. Please remember us for Omaha Gives!
Becoming a Naturalist (a prose-poem*) Part 54 by Jack Phillips
Flamed tiger-snail (Anguispira alternata) in Harrison County, Iowa. Photo by Neal Ratzlaff.
The moon of May is the flower moon but it might as well be the frog moon or bunting moon or the flamed-tiger moon because frogs are mating songbirds breeding woodland snails are coupling she pulls the tides the primal waters in every cell a sea of being exactly as full on earth as she is in heaven. The better and wilder and wetter part of me loves the wane and wax the dark side and bright and like our sister moon we (all of us) live by given light.
* For Megan Hunt in response to her series of questions. For a longer version of the prose-poem, see Senator Hunt’s newsletter here.
During these days of social distancing, The Naturalist School is devoted still and always to the consilience of science and humanities, ecology and creativity.
This spring we continue to work with the Omaha Old Market Arboretum, teach backyard ecology projects to create native and chemical-free habitats, mentor nature writing and eco-poetics through on-line programs, help our friends create pollinator lawns, provide planters with our locally-wild saplings, consult for urban re-wilding and tree preservation, conduct biotic surveys for conservation partners, and support our members and friends on their journeys to a more mindful and deeper intimacy with the natural world.
Please donate to our good work and join us in the bush when we can gather again!
Becoming a Naturalist (Part 53) prose-poem by Jack Phillips
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) in a forgotten corner of Billie’s neighborhood in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Photo by Billie Shelton
Not this time with friends or in a native place I wander my home-woods today and lay me down in dappled shade of yet bare branches so happy for the snoozy puppy on a heap of leaves beside me the wilds of my body given here to ground.
Beneath and above and around and within the sweet slink of rhiza the lining of a lung and salamander skin the earthen oozing of fecundities and funk (here dreaming of ripe juneberry and summer plum) the glide under a snail awash in inky night the swollen dawn in words and weep and blackbird gurgles.
Nature may ask of us silence and solitude but the promiscuous come-alongs of which Thoreau complained I have come to cherish and my backyard not-so-much a Walden has no less bloodroot viola crow’s foot waterleaf confusing spring warblers and that’s what you get when you never mow (or seldom) a mouse in a woodpile a fox sliding over the fence let the neighbors complain our children came up happy.
Life abides on a slippery film the soft the slick the lyric. We are no less wild than ever needing only to feel in us the pump and ripple we share with the sweet and the beastly to ride the spin of spirit and the firm and soon to find our feet with prodigal friends the good the wild beloved.
Bloodroot and bedstraw in my back yard, the result of a ban on mowing and pesticides, and a healthy population of symbiotic ants.