The Lower Arboretum was filled with the usual cast of characters this morning: house wrens, song sparrows, tree swallows, Canada geese, a coot (in the retention pond), a hawk, various warblers, a cowbird, a spotted sandpiper. I also spotted a green-backed heron and the loveliest of ducks, an adult male wood duck. He looked like he had flown out of a medieval illuminated manuscript. I also saw, for the first time this spring, spiny softshell turtles (Apalone spinifera) sunning themselves on the far bank of the river, looking a little like discarded hubcaps. Oh, for a real telephoto lens!
As I approached Turtle Pond, across the river from the city sewage treatment plant, I smelled a disgusting smell. It wasn't an ordinary sewage smell; it was the smell of my brother-in-law's dog when she rolls in something dead. It was the smell of dead carp. Yesterday's rain raised the water level enough to fill a small side channel of the river near Turtle Pond. There was enough water for dozens of carp (Cyprinus carpio) to swim up the channel and become trapped as the water level subsided again. According to student naturalist Lindsey Nietmann at Carleton: "C. carpio, introduced from Europe and Asia in the 1880s as a game fish, has the ability to dramatically alter the dynamics of the floodplain forest by disrupting the shallowly rooted plants on which it feeds. Additionally, in non-seasonal aquatic environments, carp alter the feeding ecology of waterfowl and other fish by muddying the water and releasing phosphorous which causes changes in algal population dynamics." Had I been so inclined, I could have reached in and caught carp with my bare hands.
Unfortunately, the carp were not the only disgusting creatures I encountered on my hour-and-a-half walk through the Lower Arboretum. When I finished my walk, I checked myself for ticks. I was wearing a loose shirt and, sure enough, a tick had had hitched a ride on my chest. I crushed it before any damage was done. I'm sensitive to the danger of ticks because my mother recently had to cancel a trip to Minnesota because of a recurrence of a bad case of Lyme disease.
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
The frontispiece from Countee Cullen's The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929). Illustration by Charles Cullen. Click to enlarge. On...
Here's the poem I wrote and read for the student-organized International Day of Peace gathering in Bridge Square on Wednesday, Septembe...
In early August, the director of the Northfield Public Library, Teresa Jensen, asked me to write a poem to be displayed prominently in the...