Gang Wars in the Hood

or, Notes from North Point Douglas


after William Blake's visionary Introduction to
"The Songs of Experience"


A lot of gang wars in the hood this summer!
Blood on the sidewalk most mornings,

Beaks and claws and bits of bone,
The furred and feathered, the transparent

Winged, the thin skinned, the fluttery
And slithery, chasing each other joyfully—

And with menace!—up and down the rough
Barked trees, the gardens, the sidewalks,

And the grassy boulevards: and the noise,
By god! the cawing, barking, mewing,

Honking, buzzing, growling, whirring,
The sudden chirp of a lone lost grasshopper,

Next to a stately parade of ants across
The street, proudly carrying dead wasps

Five times their size home to their young,
Everyone busy finding food, and beating off

Intruders from their tender nests—or
Just having fun!—the ferocious flap of crows'

Wings over the marauding squirrels, the
Skillful knot, flutter, host, quarrel, crew

Of sparrows against the crows, it's a wonder
With all these gang wars going on, the ugly

Little babies with their sealed eyes and
Awkward limbs and mewling, squealing

Mouths ever make it out of the nest for
Their own short season in the sun! and

In the midst of it all, there's you with your
Morning coffee, and the cats, furry paws

And sharp tuned ears and noses aquiver,
Crouched under the swaying elms for

Quick ambush of sparrow or squirrel.
Yes, you too, human, sipping your delicious

Hot coffee and cream on the back steps,
Watching the sun rise, yesterday's garden

Dirt still black under your fingernails,
You too are member of this amazing

Planetary philharmonic choir, singing,
Nesting, chasing, attacking, crying, there

Is meat stuck in your teeth, you are, they
Are, we all are, bloody-minded—and

Beautiful! daring to seize happiness during
Our brief allotted hours in the rough world—

Red in tooth and claw, sure, but also, first
And foremost, don't forget it, nested and

Sheltered by the great whispering, singing
Trees, whose roots reach down past the

Glittering black underground dragon river
To the earth's hot core, their branches

Throbbing with the sweet sap of generation,
Sweeping us skyward, such a wonder to

See them eat light to make chlorophyll
For us all, they are literally holding up

The blue air whose love we breathe
Every minute, in and out, out, yes, and

Before we turned bloody-minded we were
Rocked, and held, don't forget it, swaddled

In our mother's singing womb, held in her
Eager arms, don't you remember, deeply

In sync with the Great Mother's planetary
Heartbeat, can't you feel it now, the deep,

Slow thum thum thum in the grass under
Your feet, in your blood, here we all are,

Singing our individual and species parts
In the great evolutionary cosmic song,

Sometimes violently dissonant in the
Paroxysms of jealousy and hunger and rage,

And sometimes shining, shimmering, aglow
With the galaxy's vibrations, the deep blue

Loving air, the tender solicitations of our
Extraordinary, unusual, magical cosmic

Earth Mother, who clasps us to her singing,
Sighing, murmuring hills and curves, despite

Our frequent inattentions and follies, our
Regretful, and forgetful, outrages and excesses

Against her, our birth-giving, all-giving
Earth Mother, the great miracle being

That in spite of everything she still loves us,
Her recalcitrant human children, who are

Gradually waking up, shaking off our drowsy,
Delusional, blood-spattered sleepwalk,

Remembering and beginning to cultivate,
Once again, our appointed, our inherent, glory

As emissaries, receptors, conductors,
Magnifiers, yes, magnificent incubators,

Dreaming brain-wombs, galactic carriers,
Of the originary and coming light.

"A flock of sparrows, for example, can still be called a knot, flutter, host, quarrel, or crew even if several sparrow species are part of the group." Melissa Mayntz, "Fun Names to Describe Birds: Proper Names for Different Bird Species," The Spruce. updated 04/15/19., updated 04/15/19, accessed September 8, 2019. I wrote this poem after reading some essays by Stephen Jay Gould, a biologist and gifted essay writer, who makes the mistake, in my view, of assuming that the prestige of the "scientific method" in our time equals the right to make authoritative ontological and cosmological statements without examining the limitations of this particular epistemology. Contrast that with Blake's exuberant claim, "Everything that can be imagined is an image of the truth."

Presented at THIN AIR: Winnipeg International Writers Festival, September 25, 2019
© Di Brandt, 2019