Fleshly Metrics of Being

(Becoming a Naturalist, part 42.)

by Jack Phillips

This morning we will devise a bodily method using a breath or eyelash a toenail or heartbeat or such to measure phenomena happening here and here to write poem. We wander off meadow-wise and woods, creek, geese above and dogwood, plum all about, acorns underfoot the primal oaks that measure moments in eons.

Earlier we pondered under Grandmother Oak the “bird-while” metric that is the temporal space a perching bird will permit you before flitting off and away. Did Emerson use his carnal parts and functions to measure time and distance as we conceive to do?

Bubble-head frogs creek creeky-tick-tick and croaky rumbles. In Hindu thinking the universe is born when Brahman’s eye opens and of this I am reminded as I measure this pond with my eyelids and write a one-line haiku:

worlds appear in a cosmic blink in my eyes one leopard-frog song

They peak and dim and then with my open eyes brighten these frogs as I so imagine this earth is fated, in slippery bodies the cosmos residing. But for now we compose this immeasurable morning in meadow-breaths and pond-whiles the fleshly metrics of spring.


Becky's leopoard frog

Northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens) in Cass County Iowa. Photo by Becky Colgrove.


Same frog, other end. Photo by Robert Smith.