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Birds

Tribute to a Blue Jay

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)
demon laughshriek
ing at me
your scorn of easily
hatred of timid
& loathing for (dull all
regular righteous
comfortable) unworlds
thief crook cynic
(swimfloatdrifting
fragment of heaven)
trickstervillain
raucous rogue &
vivid Voltaire
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.

7 replies on “Tribute to a Blue Jay”

I like having Blue Jays around, because they always announce the presence of hawks. We have several Mourbing Doves that come to our feeder, and I think we’d have a few less if not for the Jays and their early warning system!

Where I grew up, shooting English House Sparrows–
we called them sputzees–was believed to be good,
a belief which led to a horrid error I made one
day, resulting in the death of Song Sparrow.

That’d be pretty much the equivalent of killing a poet, brian, in poetic language, at least.

I love this poem! The jay is what the jay is. Spunky. Irreverent. I put out peanuts for the squirrels and you know who got them–the jays–every last one. And they were too fast for me to capture them on camera.

Great poem about the jay.

I like them too – they’re a beautiful bird. After West Nile Virus came to our area, many blue jays must have succumbed to it, because I noticed for awhile there were very few around. I’m glad to see more of them lately. Crows too.

[…] * various phrases in the poem taken from John J. Audubon. Birds of America http://www.audubon.org/birds-of-america/blue-jay, including: “more tyrannical than brave” “enjoy[ing] the fruits of [his] knavery” “the eyes of grouses,” “all the birds of an aviary,” “scattered arsenic,” & “infusions of tobacco.” * “( swimfloatdrifting / fragment of heaven )”& “in hatred of timid …”  ee cummings, “crazy jay blue” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=25514. * “blue terriers:” Emily Dickinson, qtd. in Jennifer Ackerman, The Genius of Birds. Penguin, 2016. p. 107; The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson and Martha Dickinson Bianchi, p. 199. * “your sister” & “peck squirrels to a pulp:” https://www.whats-your-sign.com/blue-jay-animal-symbolism.html * “vocabularized geysers:” Mark Twain (said about the bird’s speech), http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/Exhibits/mtwest/call_bluejay.html. * gulls: (“a gull ingesting a blue jay”), Ackerman The Genius of Birds, p. 33, from Louis Lefebvre; this one comes under the category of “unusual.” * “Git on back to hell, whar you belong at:” Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury. * “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard,” Atticus Finch in Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (Full quote: “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”) * “I figure that any bird that becomes raucously outraged whenever a human approaches has to be fairly intelligent:” Loren Webster, “In a Dark Time The Eye Begins to See” blog; blog post “Tribute to a Blue Jay,” http://www.lorenwebster.net/In_a_Dark_Time/2008/04/22/tribute-to-a-blue-jay/. […]