Sunday, July 13, 2014

Poetry Sunday: You Can't Get There from Here

And now for something completely different...

Ogden Nash was one of those rare writers who was able to combine laugh-out-loud humor with poetry to good effect. His humor always had a point and usually had an essential truth well-camouflaged within it. He certainly hit the mark with this poem about birding.

You Can't Get There from Here

by Ogden Nash

Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I'm both myopic and astigmatic,
My aim turned out to be erratic,
And I, bespectacled and binocular,
Exposed myself to comment jocular.

We don't need too much birdlore, do we,
To tell a flamingo from a towhee;
Yet I cannot, and never will,
Unless the silly birds stand still.
And there's no enlightenment in a tour
Of ornithological literature.
Is yon strange creature a common chickadee,
Or a migrant alouette from Picardy?

You can rush to consult your Nature guide
And inspect the gallery inside,
But a bird in the open never looks
Like its picture in the birdie books-
Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage,
And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage.
That is why I sit here growing old by inches,
Watching a clock instead of finches,
But I sometimes visualize in my gin
The Audubon that I audubin.

(Excerpted from "Up From the Egg: Confessions of a Nuthatch Avoider.")

                                                        ~

"...But a bird in the open never looks
Like its picture in the birdie books-
Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage,
And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage..."

In those few words, Nash caught the essential frustration of the inexpert birder, of whom I am one of the most frustrated. The darn birds just never seem to look exactly like the drawings or the pictures in my field guides, and I'm left trying to match up the almost indiscernible marks on a creature that never, as Nash bemoans, "stands still."

Truly, if Ogden Nash was not a birder, he "audibin!"

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