His usual note was this demoniac laughter … but occasionally, when he had balked me most successfully and come up a long way off, he uttered a long-drawn unearthly howl, probably more like that of a wolf than any bird; as when a beast puts his muzzle to the ground and deliberately howls. This was his looning- perhaps the wildest sound that is ever heard here, making the woods ring far and wide. Henry David Thoreau
I’m convinced most Americans today are too far removed from nature to appreciate the wildness in nearby patches of woods and lakes. So many of us are wired to gadgets which hasten our ever-shortening attention span. Development infringes upon the natural spaces that used to abound around us.
When was the last time you walked out into a place of pure solitude? The last time I went out into the woods, there were hikers, plane noises overhead, the annoying hum of a tractor in a far off field. Perhaps that is why I’m drawn to Walden Pond again and again – not the actual pond – but the book Thoreau wrote. Perhaps Thoreau’s words still have meaning because his rich descriptions transport me to places that I know exist somewhere in this world but maybe not anywhere I can get to that easily.
Today I reworked a poem based on inspiration from the quote above. ‘His looning’ – those words called me – spoke to language and the use of or lack of it. If you want to read more about common loons and hear the eerie sounds Thoreau may have heard, please check on the link provided.
The Body of Language
The wail of midnight loon,
Primal sounds bared
Crawl past hollow lake
As if slung beast
Begins its looning.
Maniacal – wild – primal
Mnemonics without words
Ancient dialects of blood, of ritual, of lust–
A tremulous vibrato
Laughter as it turns to tears
Cries drown in unfamiliar dialects
As dawn wakes–
Dripping with heaviest dew.
An Exercise Read a passage from Thoreau or listen to the various calls of the loon. What speaks to you? Write in cursive by hand in an outdoor place. Listen for birds. Of what do they speak?
Comments are welcome on my draft. Feel free to share your ideas or thoughts.
Poem © by ntcollins 2013