Sunday, October 18, 2009

14. "oh mute promise of bunnies overpopulating the sod"

Either in a dream or from my reading I remembered some sentence that our first violence to the animals was the violence of our words,

and I thought, "What a human mistake to make.  Our first violence to the animals was the violence of our violence."

John Berger writes about the animal gaze, that animals and humans look at each other in much the same ways humans look at each other, with all that wariness, but that only humans, with each other, can use language to reach across that gulf.   As Berger writes,  the animal's "silence guarantees its exclusion from and of man."  Or rather, isn't there something else here, like: "our language guarantees our exclusion from and of the animals"?


What can we use to reach across the gaze?  Not poetry, I guess, though I admit many times I have wanted a poetry for animals and aliens.   But as our language is not our violence so to our language is not our remedy. (We can mostly offer the animals something across that gaze something like the opposite of death -- something like food -- which has the effect also, of making us masters to them -- an opposite of death, but also like enslavement.)

I've been thinking about the lost culture of animals as described by the 18th century naturalist Georges Buffon (and quoted in Berger):

"Reduced to slavery, or treated as rebels, and dispersed by force, their societies have vanished, their industry has become barren, their arts have disappeared, each species has lost its general qualities, and the whole have preserved only their individual properties, matured, in some, by example, by imitation, and by instruction; and, in others, by fear, and by the necessity of perpetually watching over their won safety. What views, what designs can be possessed by slaves without spirit, or exiles without power? compelled to fly, and to exist in solitary manner, they can arrive at no improvement; they can neither acquire nor transmit knowledge; but must continually languish in calamity, and decay; they must perpetuate without multiplying; and, in a word, they must lose by their duration more than they acquire by experience."

Anne Waldman's book of poetry Humanity/Manatee notes something like this, too -- "what animals must be sacrificed to the colonization of time?"  For it is the future that hurts animals, futurity too: that they are crowded out by us, their habitats (their cultures) destroyed.  There is along with language and death --  "progress," that other human violence.


Anne Waldman's book has so much in it that I'm afraid no one will read it, heavy as it is with all of our ultra-contemporary sorrow:

a life in struggle

of everyone broken in heartbreak
& the animals
experience that too


so restrained
in admitting it

unlike humans crying all over town

I am afraid of writing about it, too.  Sometimes I imagine that what I am doing when I write about what I read is akin to taking a dropper full of marrow.  Here it is rather more like taking a dropper full of sea from a planet of mostly seas, and how it might be, if I am not careful, that you would think this book some sort of trendy vapid ecopoetics like green marketing or some sort of buddhist liturgical to which all who are not flying tibetan flags would be a allergic and while it is an ecopoetics and it is a liturgical it is also

a new style of poetry filled with yearning for the animal
but empty of animals remember only
in our naming of things after them
cars & trucks & teams & products that sap
their mana

"a bowl to catch my android tears."

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