Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From so simple a beginning

Anne sent me the pic above from the National Geographic website, a leaf-hopper from the rain forest of Surinam, suggesting that I add it to my Seussian circus, described here and here. It surely belongs.

I won't add a new stanza to my Seussian parody, but Anne knows what I like. I'd go so far as to say that after family, the most intense joy in my life comes from considering the fabulous diversity of life. One inevitably thinks of the last sentence of Darwin's Origin of Species: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

Rather than add the shaving-brush leaf-hopper to my circus, since I've been browsing old journals I'll share with you a poem I wrote back in the late-1960s, when I was still young and foolish enough to try my hand at that refractory craft:

In French Guiana the plated armadillo
(or tatou) goes shuffling along at a slow

gait, his donkey-face close to the ground
like a landed fish or a short round

centipede writ large, bristles and scales
shingling off to the neat point of his tail.

He stops to avoid the crossing crocodile
(or cäiman), back-slatted and belly-tiled

like himself but flatter and stretched out
to ten times his own length tail-to-snout;

sidesteps the pin-striped anteater (or tamanoir),
an unlikely bugle-shaped creature, all nose

and tail and a tongue like a dangling string;
detours around a beetle (the scieur de long)

with two rhinoceros-horn protrusions
at the front of its head; turns in confusion

from a fist-sized black tarantula (or matubu)
with huge hairy legs. Dépêchez vous.