Wednesday, July 28, 2010

study of a dead bird

click to enlarge


This handsome woodpecker lost his bearings
and crashed into the French doors at the manor this afternoon.


Skylines tug him apart, winds drink him,
Earth itself unravels him from beneath --

His submission is flawless.

Blueflies lift off his beauty.
Beetles and ants officiate.

Pestering him with instructions.
His patience grows only more vast.

His eyes darken bolder in their vigil
as the chapel crumbles.

His spine survives its religion,
The tests moulder --

The quaint courtly language
of wingbones and talons.

And already
Nothing remains of the warrior but his weapons

And his gaze.
Blades, shafts, unstrung bows -- and the skull's beauty

Wrapped in the rags of his banner.
He is himself his banner and its rags.

While hour by hour the sun
Deepens its revelation.



from The Knight
by Ted Hughes

84 comments:

  1. excellent choice of verse....and i smile if for no other reason than a dead bird deserves a poem...

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  2. What a beautiful bird...The other day, my cat, Charlie, came in with a little robin in his mouth. I know Charlie knows no better, but I couldn't help but feel upset and sorry for the poor bird.

    And thank you for sharing the Hughes piece. Such a wonderful, lyrical poem, he is one of my favourite poets.

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  3. Beautiful poem -- and fine photography!

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  4. nothing could capture the way I feel every time this happens
    such sadness

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  5. I've buried a few of these wayward ones . . . . He or she is flying in the big sky now.

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  6. I have to say that I find the photos very intriguing. Lovely poem for the dear thing.

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  7. I was actually very moved by this. The study itself reminded me of something that Pablo Neruda might do. The verse is nothing like his but it is exquisitely beautiful. One can say that it is sad but also that it is a part of the natural world and you have been invited to see it. The photos are truly beautiful.

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  8. I love Ted Hughes' poetry--I thought at first this was a Willow poem, and I was slack-jaw at it. Reminds me of your style, and his poetry is fabulous. So sorry the poor bird didn't make it--we have a bluebird that keeps banging into the window no matter what we do. I always flinch to hear one hit the glass. Must be awful--when I witness this, I always hope they died instantly and don't ever know what hit them. Love the woodpeckers.

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  9. Willow: the photos are extraordinary! Love the contrast of the blacks, whites, and grays. You did a fantastic job, as always, making the verse fit together. Bravo, my friend!

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  10. Oh, Sue, I wish I could say I wrote this piece. I actually thought about writing one tonight, but it was late and my muse was over on the sofa watching TV.

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  11. Your muse was watching TV! ha ha!Sead birds do deserve a poem. Good choice.
    Flying into a widow must be traumatic for those that survive. It might be better they die than to fly off forever expecting the air ahead to suddenly turn solid!

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  12. What a sad end...he looked so well fitted for many years and then suddenly one wrong move and dead...but you in your kindness put Ted Hughes words over him...thank you

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  13. He is handsome, and so is the poem. Your photos, especially the second, are so moving in their beauty and contrast.

    It always makes me sad to think that Audubon had to kill birds in order to draw them.

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  14. Crashing into a Window

    Whether the bird is a cock or a hen
    A woodpecker, cuckoo, a sparrow or wren,
    When air turns to glass
    And they bust their arse,
    They never, no never fly full speed again!

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  15. Stafford, apparently it's morning over there and your muse has had her morning cuppa! You're so right. This bird is never going to fly full speed again.

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  16. Thanks for sharing this Willow. The words you selected enhance the poor bird's existence somehwo. I love the photos, it is a beautiful creature, even in death.

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  17. Poor woodpecker! At least now it has had a lovely and appropriate tribute.

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  18. Fabulous pairing of bird and poem. The detail of your pictures is breathtaking, I can feel the feathers in my fingers...

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  19. Oh Damn! Usually we have a few that slam into our windows- have been lucky this year so far. The cat is now too old to bring in his findings as well. So sad to find them, glad it does not occur with as much frequency...yours was a lovely bird.

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  20. I can never bear to hear that thud. Fortunately, most have been only stunned. Your photos are as forceful as Hughes' poem.

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  21. How sad...yet how beautiful your photos are. The poem is exquisite...I thought it was one of yours at first too...

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  22. Love your headder, stunning. The bird images actually hurt me, I am such a bird person. All that being said, it is perfectly married to the poetry.

    What are you up to lovely Willow? Are you waiting for Fall like I am?

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  23. Oh dear. I went to see some friends two days ago, and guess what was on their outdoor table; a dead woodpecker, the same type! I often find dead birds by our big glass doors but I've never had a woodpecker.

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  24. Your new banner is incredible. Really wonderful. Please tell me about it. Or, maybe you already have? I've been away for awhile. I roam around looking.

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  25. Worth reading over and over again. Wonderful poem. So poignant.

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  26. Dear Willow, So much like an early Dutch still life. But so very sad. I am particularly fond of the poetry of Ted Hughes having once, in the 1970s, heard him reading his own work in, of all places, Coventry in the West Midlands. A very memorable occasion.

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  27. Amazing photos, albeit sad ones.

    Have returned to the blogosphere after running around doing lots of things. Will shortly be re-running around in a frenzy, this week is my 'quiet' time to catch up

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  28. Such sad images, so well matched to Ted Hughes words.

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  29. Willow,
    Nice tribute! A testament to the philosophy that we should fly high to the last moment.
    rel

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  30. Silence is not always golden. I hate this when birds die or are badly injured from crashing into windows. The reason is the glass from the outside looks dark like a cave and they fly into it to escape or get away from some sound or something. You can tape on 12 inch pieces of fluffy yarn made from 77% mohair. It is irregular as the dickens but it waves softly in the slightest breeze. One end is not tapes. ANyway, I did this on the glass doors and not a single bird has crashed into it. I have 7 pieces taped here and there.

    Mohair yarn at amazon.com

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  31. Wow, those are good French doors at the manor if they can withstand being crashed into by this wonderfully revelatory Ted Hughes poem.

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  32. Requiem for a woodpecker - how appropriate. The perfect poem and pictoral funeral piece. Excellent, willow.

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  33. Poor birdie.

    Willow,

    You're new header looks like Johnny Depp. Also, who are the cigar smoking ladies?

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  34. I should have known that you know Ted Hughes too!

    You selected a poem worthy of this strong and proud bird!

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  35. Hey, all, my header is a detail from Romaine Brooks' self portrait, 1923. She's my current muse. The cute cigar smoking gals are from Google images. I couldn't trace the photographer. Aren't they great? LOVE the attitude.

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  36. that BAMMMMMMM on a window here always tugs at my heart.....
    a moment to bid farewell.
    well observed in the poem
    and your images. such fragile beauty this wood warrior.

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  37. poor pecker no one around to open the doors

    perfect poem pairing

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  38. the photos are stunning,
    but will leave me a bit melancholy now.

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  39. Photos great but sad to me. We used to have woodpeckers until we lost all our trees in the great ice storm of 2009.

    Love the poem, I might have entitled ODE TO A BIRD, but I am a tad silly.

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  40. Hello Willow,

    The poem is superb and so appropriate. I love:
    "And already
    Nothing remains of the warrior but his weapons

    And his gaze.
    Blades, shafts, unstrung bows"

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  41. A sad end for a beautiful bird...

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  42. Willow That was a beautiful choice. Once I was walking at the beach. I found a blue heron, wrapped in fishing line. So sad a death. I ran back to the house and brought out my watercolors. I did a piece to honor his life. I am sorry, but I think I have lost it. Or it is also buried somewhere, but I remember...and I will remember your woodpecker. Thank you. Sometimes that happens here in my studio. On Sunday we rescued a huge dragonfly in the studio, you never know what will come into the door. I think maybe he was an "art dragonfly."

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  43. In the third photo I see how his own wings are his shroud. How sadly beautiful. It is his strength that killed him. For it was his strength that gave him the power to fly so hard into the window.

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  44. Ah, a fallen beauty ...it makes me sad.
    May his spirit rest in God's divine light.

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  45. "The skulls beauty"...to which we return....
    Amazing photos, and sublime choice!

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  46. Perfect pairing of image and verse!

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  47. Yikes... this makes me want to be a taxidermist..and make him a legend!
    :) The Bach

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  48. Bach, the guys were all here last night and wanted to do the same thing! Since they were not professionals, I would have nothing of it!

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  49. Dear Willow: The first dead bird for me was the seagull stinking to high heaven. Flies everywhere. I do recall a golden bird that hit our window of our house once. I often thought it looked painted gold. I wonder what the significance or the esoteric meanings behind the phrase "dead bird". We all know what "the rabbit has died" means (the person's preggers). It is a dictomy since birds are flying free spirits and then to see them dead is rather like a death of spirit. Is that the decipher here? ps I will look up the poet hence!TXS!!!

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  50. addenum: Oh that Ted Hughes; Sylvia Plath's poet exhusband. Was he a "stinka" to her? Did she do the "gas oven mumba" because of him? He did have another lover! Would that have sent Sylvia over the "edge"?

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  51. Chicco, he was a stinka. In fact, his second wife committed suicide, as well. I don't know whether she did the oven mumba or not!

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  52. It's so sad when that happens to a bird. Maybe that gives me an excuse not to wash my windows outside so that they notice the glass. Save the birds, don't do windows.

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  53. A stark ode to the poor woodpecker. A hawk flew into our window, slid down and died right there in the snow. It was one of those helpless moments.

    As for Ted Hughes, while I enjoy his verse I prefer Plath.

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  54. I love the whole feel of the manor these days...that header is magnificent (those eyes!). Gorgeous photos of the sad little bird - so much texture. Paired so perfectly with the words of Hughes, it all comes together and with such a dark beauty.

    - Dina

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  55. Poetic anatomy of an unfortunate bird's return to earth. Awesome.

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  56. These things are very hard for me. I feel sick inside. The words "And already Nothing remains of the warrior but his weapons" are very moving.

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  57. Abe, although your hanging yarn in the windows idea sounds like a great one, I think I might prefer R.J.'s suggestion of refraining from washing them

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  58. I love this post Willow.
    Dark & beautiful.

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  59. Oh beautiful woodpecker. -- barbara

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  60. There can be such an elegance to dead birds - though I think the French window death helped to keep the elegance of this lovely creature in tact.

    The poem is a perfect tribute to the beauty of this bird!

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  61. 30 years of not reading Ted Hughes makes me wonder why so long. You have a skill in putting things together in a way few others can willow.

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  62. I love the poem, and it is very fitting. It makes me sad, because I'm a big bird/nature lover. Yes, the woodpecker is still beautiful, even in death. Your pictures are so powerful.

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  63. Aww...poor guy. The colors are striking. The bird's colorings and your deck flow into each other.

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  64. What a beautiful elegant bird.
    I have noted your creepy film below as I have just joined Netflix!

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  65. Hmmmm, this bird has now been truly revered in death. Great photos of a sad little thing.

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  66. enjoyed the poem...but i am laughing about your grocery list...

    get those dill seeds..i really love this bread...good toasted in the morning too....with butter


    and the bowl....i wish i could say it was vintage...but i am going to be perfectly honest with you..it is from wal mart..i know..i know...
    but i have a secret love for the Corning dishes in there...my grandma had them and i get a cozy off of it...the side of the bowl is decorated with apples and pears...it was a nesting set of 3. now how could i pass that up?

    i think i might have asplit personality

    1/2 Sprigware
    1/2 Corningware

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  67. enjoyed the poem....

    and YES ! get the dill seeds
    i love this bread...good toasted in the morning too

    with butter

    and about the white bowl..i am going to be pefectly honest with you..nope..not vintage...it is from wal mart.....
    i have a secret love for Corningware...my grandma had it and i get an old fashion/cozy off of it
    the bowl came in a nesting set of 3 with pears and apples on the side...now how can i pass that up...

    i think i might have a split personality

    1/2 Sprigware
    1/2 Corningware

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  68. Thanks willow, beautiful, terrible post.

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  69. His spine survives his religion

    Ah-- Great LINE!

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  70. I love you first photo which I clicked to enlarge. Can I steal it for my desktop?

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  71. Absolutely, Marc! I'm honored!

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  72. Truly an excellent poem to go with these images of the bird that has passed.
    It seems to my like a tribute, or a eulogy for this fine bird that has left our world.
    Always a pleasure to visit.

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  73. I think most of us have had this experience of a bird hitting our window and finding them below the window- dead.. always upsetting. I love the poem- a fitting tribute.

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  74. Dead birds that make it to my home tend to be brought in by the cats (sometimes they are not even dead).

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  75. The last thing to go is the gaze.........

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  76. :( The poem was incredibly moving...and tragic.

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  77. The black and white wing plumage is striking isn't it? My heart always drops when a bird flies into glass. Perfect poem for this bird study.

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  78. Comment #80? WOW!

    Willow, "Hazel" is a name for the coffee corner at HAZELDON, a treatment center (old, in Minnesota, but new in Naples) for drug and alcohol addiction Peeps. It is a live-in--usuallt 30-day recovery place. There IS no "Hazel". I drop in there after an AA meeting elsewhere.

    Apologize for using your comment area to answer a question, but...hey!

    PEACE!

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  79. It truly amazes me what patience and attention can write. -J

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  80. Sometimes I think birds have a death wish when they know it is their time. The dead bird looks regal somehow.

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  81. The sun's revelation? We are all mortal... I appreciate your subject here and treatment.

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  82. The poem is indeed beautiful (and comes from the pen of Ted Hughes who lived just up the valley from here). But it is the photographer that is so striking. With all your poems and prose and recipes and - everything - I sometimes forget what a gifted photographer you are. Thanks for reminding me.

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)