This week, during our summer break, the members of the mighty English Department where I teach have met voluntarily to fine tune our program.
Despite my having to abandon the funky barrier island where I reside and drive twenty minutes to the mainland, it’s really enjoyable to banter and swap stories with friends and colleagues who can pick up on obscure literary allusions.
Part of the fun is that we establish motifs, repeat at apt times absurdities that have come up, and one of the major motifs this week has been an anonymous student’s declaration after reading Walden that he or she “hates nature.” (By the way, we don’t name names – I only know whoever made this absurd statement as “a student”).
Of course, hating nature is hating the complex interconnectedness of atmosphere, water, vegetation, geology, animal life, etc. that has given rise to the consciousness of the nature-hater. It’s sort of like saying I hate ingestion or respiratory systems.
Nevertheless, we know what the student means. She/he doesn’t dig Thoreau, the great outdoors, would rather be inside in an air-conditioned space staring into some sort of screen.
And maybe, this American Lit student learned when reading Stephen Crane and Jack London that nature is absolutely indifferent to him or her.
Anyway, yesterday, when riding my bike along Atlantic Avenue, I caught a whiff of a rotting carcass hidden from my view, and a nature-hating muse descended.
I detect death’s sour stench,
some small decomposing carcass,
oleander hidden, as I pedal past
into a stiff salty headwind.
Overhead in the same direction,
the broken V of five pelicans
flap – flap – flap – glide – flap,
and the stench is now behind me.
How sweet it would all seem
If Charlie Darwin hadn’t thrown
his monkey wrench into the works.
The pelicans splash like kamikazes.