Monday, June 9, 2008


(Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper, 1942)

In what feels like a lifetime ago, the mid to late 1990s, I used to attend weekly poetry open mics at Mojo's, Spider House, and occasionally other coffee houses in the University of Texas vicinity. Most of the readers were young, often young enough to be my children. A lot of them were lesbian or, as they called it, queer. I was still working on my voice then, both as a writer and as a performer of my poetry. A long, hard learning curve.

Most nights I drove home via Guadalupe, even though the first stretch of it is the University Drag, choked with traffic and jaywalking students. Once I got to MLK, though, it was a one-way easy stretch the rest of the way home. I wrote a poem about that route, once. It's at the end of this post. It got published somewhere along the way.

Some nights, however, I cut east and made my way around the State Capitol. I like seeing the bats and nighthawks circling the dome, visible mostly when they cross in front of a star or the moon. Did you know that our Capitol dome here in Texas is 15 feet taller than the one in Washington, DC? Yep. We did that on purpose. Everything bigger in Texas.

The common nighthawk is a bird which makes me glad I settled in Austin. I never was around them anywhere else. They seem to be here year-round, though in other places they migrate to South America for the winter. As a nightjar, they lay their eggs directly on the bare ground, no attempt made to build a nest. Their high peent fills the dark skies above Austin, especially above moontowers and mercury vapor lights which draw insects. As they close in on a flying insect who is desperately trying to outmaneuver them, often at the last instant the nighthawk will give its screech -- not from triumph or frustration, but to disorient the bug. It tends to work, causing a tiny jag in the insect's zoom, and the nighthawk heads 'em off at the pass.

If you'd like to hear their call, go to this page at E-Nature and click on "Listen".

I had to pass the by Texas Governor's Mansion to connect with Congress Avenue, my boulevard home. At that time I drove a Honda with a moonroof, and I'd make sure the roof was open when I reached the Mansion so I could scream at George W. Bush precisely what I thought of him -- wishing I was a nighthawk and he as he was, a dung beetle. He had contaminated the one-time residence of Ann Richards with his occupancy.

It never occurred to me, in my worst nightmares, that America could be stupid enough to elect him President. Well, to be exact, to allow him to steal the Presidency. Twice.

I earnestly hope the vast majority of people who voted for him are the ones now losing their homes and jobs. However, I doubt that's the case. The elite have escape hatches (Paraguay, anybody?), which includes our Senators and Representatives. Only a few of them admit their luck.

One of them is Congressman Robert Wexler. I got an e-mail from him today stating "I am pleased to announce to you that the House Judiciary Committee has met my public call for Scott McClellan's immediate testimony with action." Not only has the Committee issued an invitation to Scotty, he has accepted. Hoo-doggie.

The Governor's Mansion here burned two nights ago. They're saying it's arson. Fortunately, I am completely alibi'd by disability and poverty. They'll rebuild from the ashes, a job we're facing as a nation. Wouldn't it be funny if it was pudgy, pushed-around Scotty McClellan who struck the match?


(Common Nighthawk -- Chordeiles minor, by Bob Hines, 1973)


We are riding three abreast
late-night same-speed companions
down 20 blocks of Guadalupe,
red lights in sequence
slowing us, each in our own gear,
then waving us on through.
I am red Honda,
motorcycle to left,
to right big car with window-filled dog
barking in different echoes off
brick buildings,
wooden houses,
disappearing a beat or two by the park
then bouncing back at the library
as if he were galloping along with us,
a central city Baskerville.

The moon is full over the Congress Street bridge.

Here is where I turn away
and choose my route back up the hill
to where I bunkered in six years ago
the month I let myself believe
she was really going to leave me.

I come out for picnics, movies,
meetings that stretch into gossiping about
whoever left early,
but I always go back alone,
sleep alone, get up and scrape together
faith in the clemency of another day

© Maggie Jochild; written 20 July 1997, just past midnight

1 comment:

letsdance said...

May your faith be ever renewed, Maggie. May you always lead us into new learnings.
blessings, Jan