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Twelve Poems of Michael Vince

photo of Michael Vince in Rome


HUMBOLDT


         Everything passed tranquilly till eleven at night; and then a noise

         so terrific arose in the neighbouring forest that it was impossible to close our eyes.


A greeting or a farewell?

That evening when he camped

at the river’s edge and unpacked his notebooks

from the heaped baggage, as darkness rose from the tangled

rooted floor, and drove upward to rekindle the stars,


the explorer, scientist, and gentleman heard

for the first time the night chorus of the inhabitants

of the rain forest: it was the feast of the full moon,

the guides reported, for monkey, for cougar and for jaguar,


for peccary, and for sloth, for parakeet and turkey-bird:

they shouted their territory, like the gabble of an auctioneer

whose hammer, like dawn, would strike them silent

suddenly. Their first objection, and their last hurrah:


gossiping and complaining, and shouting the odds

till the good man commanded, and helplessly pair by pair

they entered their attitudes of study against the glass

as the human flood began, and their own kind floated away.....