—ALL HUGE LIKE GIANT FLIGHTLESS KIWIS TWICE THE
SIZE OF OSTRICHES,
they turned and walked away from us
and you were there Jane and you were twenty-two
but this was the nineteen-forties,
in Wichita, near the edge of town, in a field
surrounded by a copse of cottonwoods. It was
getting dark and the trees around the bridge
almost glowed like a scene by Palmer.
The two Giant Birds—Aepyorni—from Madagascar,
extincted A.D. one thousand, turned and walked
from us across the bridge. Even in the semi-darkness
the softness of their brown feathers made
curls pliant as a young mother’s hair. There
was a sweet submission in the power of their enormous
legs (giant drumsticks). Their tiny heads
(in proportion to their bodies) were bent
utterly submerged in their business and sweeping
side to side as a salmon does—or as a wolf does—
but with a Pleistocene, self-involved gentleness
beyond our ken. My heart rose in my chest
(as the metaphysical poets say “with
purple wings of joy.”) to see them back
in life again. We both looked, holding hands,
and I felt your wide-eyed drinking-in
Then I turned and viewed across the darkening
field and there was a huge flightless hunting fowl
(the kind that ate mammals in the Pliocene).
He stood on one leg in the setting sun by the sparkling
stream that cut across the meadow to the bridge.
He had a hammer head and curled beak, and after my
initial surge of fear to see the field was dotted,
populated, by his brethren, each standing in the setting
sun, I saw their stately nobility
We followed the Aepyorni
across the old wooden bridge made of huge
timbers. The bridge was dark from the shadows
of the poplars and the evergreens there.
The stream was dimpled with flashing moonlight
—and I think it had a little song.
I found that on the bridge we were among
a herd of black Wildebeests—Black Gnus.
One was two feet away—turned toward me—
looking me eye-into-eye. There was primal
wildness in the upstanding coarse (not
sleek as it really is in Africa) fur on
the knobby, powerful-like-buffalo shoulders.
(Remember this is a dream.) I passed by him
both afraid and unafraid of wildness as I had passed
through the herd of zebras at the top of Ngorongoro Crater
in front of the lodge, where from the cliff we could see
a herd of elephants like ants, and the soda lake
looked pink because of flamingos there.
There is an essence in fear overcome
and I overcame fright in passing those zebras
and this black Wildebeest.
Then we passed
over the heavy bridge and down a little trail
on the far side of the meadow, walking back
in the direction we had been.
Soon we came
to a cottage of white clapboards
behind a big white clapboard house and knocked
on the door; it was answered by a young man
with long hair who was from the Incredible String Band.
He took us inside and he played an instrument
like a guitar and he danced as he played it.
The lyre-guitar was covered with square plastic
buttons in rows of given sizes and shapes.
The instrument would make any sound, play
any blues, make any creature sound, play
any melody…I wanted it
badly—it was a joy. My chest rose.
I figured I’d have to, and would be glad to,
give twenty or thirty thousand for it…
Then the dream broke
and I was standing somewhere with Joanna
to the side of a crowd of people by a wall
of masonry and I reached into my mouth
and took from my jaw (all the other
persons vanished and I was the center of everything)
a piece which was eight teeth
fused together. I stared at them
wondering how they could all be one piece.
They were white…It was some new fossil.
Down on the bone there were indentations like rivulets
like the flowing patterns of little rivers.