I showed off my party dress. So the birds are ready to dance. They’ve brought out their best.
If I could only dance with one, which would I choose?
I like that black swan brings me fetid flowers. The book could be a gift or maybe black swan intends to read to me later. I hope not. There’s nothing worse than long phrases comparing odalisques to astronomical bodies, natural phenomena, or flowers. How can you enjoy yourself when everything you do reminds someone of the moon? I’ve been to the moon, and it’s nothing to throw garlands at. Stop talking about the moon. I am The Odalisque!
Fetid flowers or… a dead branch?
The branch is for me to hold when we dance, so I don’t catch on fire. That might be a trick, though, because Phoenix really wants me to burn. At least if I dance with Phoenix, there is a window nearby. I will need to stick my head out into that high, clear air, after a whirl in Phoenix’s flagrant embrace.
Crow-as-parrot offers to lead me through greener pastures. Crow has a message but I’ve already opened it. Or did Crow open it first and scramble the intended meaning? Crow wears the fool’s hat. Crow, where are we going?
The starlings clothe themselves in the soft robes of nightfall. It is the hour of murmuration. Behind them, obscure. If I allow myself to be taken in their arms I will be the space between earth and sky consecrated by their hushed, joyful swarm. I will be the ever-evolving absence of thousands of birds.
Hawk, discretely, but superbly dressed, waits beneath an ordinary chandelier. The silk dress is for changing into when Hawk grows tired of leading.
Hawk carries a scarlet fan for when I grow bored and want everyone to go away. I hide my face like ostrich sticking its head in the sand. Everyone knows: leave me alone.
Hawk is thoughtful in that way.
I will dance with Hawk.
Black Swan, aghast, is sputtering phrases from the book. The phrases aren’t about me or the moon! They’re all about Black Swan! Typical. Black Swan, do you remember how to call out, over the marsh, the wild, mute cry of your forebearers? If so, I will dance with you.
Fashionable birds. See how they first made their fashion fetish known here, or click the Fashion tag for that and more.
On New Year’s Day, crow became a parrot.
I asked him how he did this. Here is our conversation:
disregard the moon and all arrangements of stars.
if stones stand be sure light nowhere specially shines.
do not go to the great tree in the forest, the one that is itself and all its ancestors.
light no fire.
scatter no grain.
spill no milk no honey no blood.
do not mark yourself with stakes or nails or knives or thorns, the bones of dead creatures or the inks of poisonous flowers.
know who you are and choose
to behave differently.
i went to sleep on my usual branch.
it doesn’t matter what i dreamed. the dream was of myself.
when i awoke, i cracked one eye like crow. then i opened both eyes like parrot. i flashed my wings like parrot. i did not caw i squawked.
what is the difference between parrot and crow?
what do you know? i choose how i act.
pretty parrot pirate ship. squawking word mirror.
what do you know? i know crow
stole you something shinyto rob you of your lustre.
is that a mirror?
where where going
you are you
are you are
(read the last conversation with the crow here.)
a candle in my ear burned down to ash. wake up. eyelashes caked with ash. head thick with smoke. obscure.
fig. 6: astrolabe/the stairs
(the phoenix leaves flaming notes on my pillow. Click to read the last billet doux…)
there are no words left.
it doesn’t matter what you say.
it matters what you do.
what will you do?
I’ve been asleep. I dreamed of a desert.
My last scrapbook page was portraits of the birds in hats. You may remember that Hawk chose a white plumed hat with a blue ribbon.
I was surprised by Hawk’s preferred hat: white with a sky-blue ribbon. Hawk explained that it was not an aesthetic choice, but a metaphysical one. This particular hat reminds Hawk of an avian creation myth which he relates thus:
White Bird laid an egg.
The egg was the world.
White Bird sits on the egg; it is night.
White Bird flies, up up up, away; egg is cold.
White Bird goes to her friend, Blue Snake.
Snake gives her a but-recently shed skin.
It, like Snake, is shimmery blue.
White Bird carries the blue strip of Blue Snake back to the egg.
Now, before she flies up, up, up, away,
she wraps the egg with blue skin.
It is the sky.
Sometimes a few downy feathers stick to the skin.
They are clouds.
Hawk is far too worldly to believe in this myth, but, does believe personal journeys constellate in mythological structures.
Hawk asked me to share this primitive bird story with you before I fall back asleep.
I don’t know why I’m so sleepy these days! I am a worn-out Odalisque. Maybe that will be my next scrapbook page: “worn-out Odalisque”. It must be the birds, with all their bitter questionings, exhausting me.
As I mentioned in my last post, the birds think I should hang out on the sea shore this summer. To distract them from this discomforting vein of conversation, I indulge their penchant for FASHION.
The birds like trying on hats.
Black Swan likes hats more than anybody. Black Swan would like me to do a whole series of portraits entitled “CROWNING THE INEFFABLE: Hats O EPHEMERAL GARNISHING Across the Centuries as CLASSICALLY DISPLAYED Upon the TIMELESS HEAD of the Rare BLACK SWAN.”
I refused and made him share a portrait with Hawk:
Hawk was deeply moved by the metaphysics of the plumed, dove-white hat, bound as it is by a ribbon of blue sky. I don’t really understand Hawk’s line of thinking; it has something to do with avian creation myths.
Starlings swarm beneath a veil as if it were mist over the autumn brocade of the marsh grasses:
Crow-as-parrot with a parrot in a hat so naïve, I think it is surreal:
The phoenix thinks this hat is bad-ass, especially with a ruched tunic:
I put on a hat, too. The birds suddenly silenced themselves; their heads cocked to eye my every move with beady-black intensity.
They thought I might be going outside:
WHERE ARE YOU GOING!! squawked Parrot-that-was-crow.
I could go outside. If I knew where to go.
Why does the phoenix want to garb me in fire? Another pile of ash on my pillow. Phoenix fiery billet-doux. “Things unintelligible, yet understood.”
do you know what but not how?
you will lose the path
in the fog of your emotions.
do not regret the past.
you are the mud in which a stone is sunk.
clear your mind.
pick up the stone.
wetness skeins it like marble, smooth sculpted on
where did you find this artifact?
what you call your life
is how you avoid living.
living–the outrageous adoration, absurd affirmation
of is’ness amidst all-vanish-es.
throw the stone of your heart
into the fire.
it might be an egg or a seed
that must be scorched
before it will hatch.
Odalisque sits at her desk. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING.”
Odalisque steeps her tea. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING. HELLO.”
Odalisque leaps to the window when Hawk or Black Swan or anybird, anybird at all, blessedly arrives in the window to save her from Crow. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING,” says Crow.
“Hello,” says my bird guest friend. “HELLO,” squawks Crow. Shut up Crow! I don’t know where I’m going. I’m in an obelisk for solstice’s sake, and it was a lot of work to get up here. (as portrayed in my movie.) Leave me alone!
Despite the fact that I did not choose Crow’s vocabulary, Owl, in an attempt to be helpful, brought me this: Things to keep in mind when choosing your parrot’s vocabulary.
1. Avoid Profanity.
Profanity is the use of profane language, and profane language is that which is not concerned with religion, unholy because not consecrated, or that which debases what is holy. I was once considered profane, especially as compared to, say, a Madonna. So perhaps I should not try to teach Crow my name, The Odalisque.
2. Stay away from “catch phrases”
It’s always cute when talking birds chime in with something to say, but you want to make sure that what you teach them won’t get old or annoying after a while.
I take a book from my bed and flip the pages. How about:
I would like to step out of my heart, and go
walking beneath an enormous sky.
From you to you I go commanded. In between
the garland is hanging in chance; but if you
take it up and up and up look! All becomes festival!
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror,
which we still are just able to endure.
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.
Is love: a murderer without a knife?
She moves the way clocks move.
I can’t imagine even lovely, ravenous phrases could preserve their dewy hunger if repeated as often as Crow says “Where are you going.” If I teach poetry, will Crow use it sparingly, with the wisdom & ken to perfectly brim a fine distillation into each moment’s goblet?
3. Think long-term!
There are many things that will remain constant in your bird’s life, and these are often the best sources for inspiration when trying to decide on the types of words and phrases that you’d like to add to your bird’s vocabulary. For example, your or your birds name…
CROW! squawks my parrot. ODALISQUE ODALISQUE ODALISQUE! No Crow, you can’t say that it is profane. OBELISK OBELISK OBELISK! Nor do I want to encourage any creature in my care to believe that anything in its life is constant. OCEAN OCEAN OCEAN. UNIVERSE UNIVERSE UNIVERSE. No Crow, all is in constant creative & destructive flux. MATTER MATTER ENERGY! MATTER MATTER ENERGY! I do not know, crow. I do not know. It is best to assume all, all will pass but nothingness, from which materiality and warmth may inevitably emerge.
4. Choose songs/music wisely
It’s best to select songs that are “classics.” Popular choices for many bird owners are nursery rhymes like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, and various oldies from the 50′s and 60′s.
This guidance is very intriguing. It reminds me of Beckett who imagined mothers squatting to birth babies into their graves. Nursery rhymes & oldies…everything in between is tedium.
Twinkle twinkle little star how I wonder what you are, up above the sky so high. Like a diamond in the sky…
Crow before he was parrot would definitely have thought of the stars as diamonds, and coveted one for his stash. But Owl would bring us a book on astronomy, show Crow that the stars are luminous bodies of charged particles held together by gravity and fueled by thermo-nuclear fusion, and that would have been that for everybody but Phoenix who would know, as if in ecstatic vision, the nature of heaven.
True singing is a different breath, about
nothing. A gust inside the god. A wind.
5. Avoid alarming phrases.
Even if it seems like a humorous thing to do, there is a genuine risk that your bird could incite a fair level of panic given the right situation.
There are so many things that should incite a fair level of panic, but fail to. Related to number 3 above, perhaps I should teach Crow to regularly incite panic with words that remind me of my impermanence.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING WHERE ARE YOU GOING. HELLO.
Oh, hermetic Crow. Even as parrot, you outpace me.
Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were behind you, like the winter that has just gone by. For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter that only by wintering through it will your heart survive…
…To all that is used-up, and to all the muffled and dumb creatures in the world’s full reserve, the unsayable sums, joyfully add yourself, and cancel the count.