syrinx and systole, first three fragments
The songbird sings from his syrinx, at the bottom of his trachea, where the two bronchi become one. It is a hollow space framed by reverberant cartilage and smooth muscle tympanum. There are no chords to split and differentiate the breath. The tongue does not direct the sound, nor are there teeth for sibilance, nor labia for nuance.
The song of the warbler comes from an impossibly deeper place in the body than human speech. From below the threshold of distortion. When the vireo sings he feels breath and desire delivered directly of the heart.
If we were to experience such raw song, we would die from uncontrolled internal resonance.
Our ancestors, gentle souls, who tried to learn language from birds, perished from the exquisite effort.
Ornithologists named the avian vocal organ after a nymph known for her chastity. Syrinx fled to the river to escape the lust of Pan. The river turned her into a clutch of hollow reeds. Pan sighed in desolation at the riverbank. His breath passed over the reeds, and they intoned her vanished body. So he cut them down, luminous channels, and bound them with cord to breathe and dream and sound her absence. He blew his breath through what she became to escape him.
He named these pipes for her, but we name the pipes for him. For us, her name has been absorbed into his desire. We steal the names of the creatures we drive to extinction.
The oriole does not know this story, which we tell to share the sorrow of not being birds.
The scientific drive is fuelled by our accumulating distance from nature. From syrinx is derived syringe. The nymph who fled to the river to become a flute with the voice of a bird now transits the skin to withdraw blood or deliver meadow fragrances to an inner chamber.
We flinch at all penetrations. This is the beginning of flight.
Drawing the plunger up on the syringe withdraws blood. Inhaling through the syrinx internalizes song. Pressing the plunger down is the exhale through the pipes, or the first half of the heartbeat.
The mourning dove, alighting on a tree that is to him a god, injects radiant space into the left side of my heart.
Syrinx and systole, pressing song from empty spaces.
I lost the stream that nourished the field.
My clay pots are smashed.
This has all happened today, or yesterday at most. I’ve had no time to digest this radical change in food.
The field in my heart where I knew the planting schedule and the arcs of stars.
One morning I began to suspect that my mother didn’t understand me, and to think that my father’s body was weak. For my part, I lacked honesty, I lacked courage.
The rigour mortis of all holy words provoked cynicism. I relieved my spite with speed in forward motion.
I hoped to evolve beyond evolution, but this hope made me unfit for survival.