Though I’ve never encountered any of the poems found in 95 Poems, Cumming’s next to last book of poems published in his lifetime, it turns out that two of my favorites have been turned into rather “famous” songs. The first poem begins, “now(more near ourselves than we)/ is a bird singing in a tree” and was probably my favorite selection until I actually heard the song that had been composed upon it. A single hearing was enough to forever banish the poem from my thoughts, though I’m not sure the poor poem is at fault.
Later, after selecting another poem, I found that it, too, had been converted to a song. Playing it safe, I carefully avoided listening to it for fear of the result:
“crazy jay blue)
ing at me
your scorn of easily
hatred of timid
& loathing for (dull all
thief crook cynic
fragment of heaven)
raucous rogue &
you beautiful anarchist
(i salute thee”
Many people I know hate jays almost as much as I love crows. After all, their song – if it could be described as such – is certainly not much to listen to. Worst of all, they prey on other birds, or at least on their chicks.
None of those traits are too admirable, i’ll admit, but there is something in their feisty attitude that appeals to me, the way they refuse to abide by man’s rules. It may have been a sin to kill a mockingbird, but my great uncle was willing to pay us ten cents for every blue jay we shot with our Red Ryder B.B gun in his hazelnut orchard, but I was a terrible shot, especially when my heart wasn’t in the hunt.
I figure that any bird that becomes raucously outraged whenever a human approaches has to be fairly intelligent.
Besides, few birds are more beautiful than a Stellar Jay, rogue or not.