Among the conquistadors

Photos and text by Teju Cole

foggy park-like area in Savanna, Georgia

In Savannah, a homeless man, quite drunk, came out of the fog. “I am homeless,” he announced. He began to fulminate about the statues in front of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. They were of famous artists, but he took them to be conquistadors. “This one,” he said, pointing to Raphael, “was a mass murderer. And that one over there” — Phidias — “was a child abuser.”

I gave him money. He reached into his coat and handed me a flower.

hand holding flower

The Great Divide

for Bev

In our first river west
of the great divide
in that swift current
I remember the water ouzel
appearing & disappearing

the gay couple standing
outside their camper
who mimed its comic
curtsying on shore

the way my brother
described it walking
among the rounded
stones on the bottom
or flying underwater
wings like oars because
its feet were unwebbed

& after it surfaced
inaudible over the roar of rapids
I remember watching
its beak move & wondering
what that watery solitude
sounded like
from within.

How the other 3/5ths birds

If you’re into birding and/or slightly obscure humor, you won’t want to miss my brother Mark’s account of Christmas Bird Count 2008, just posted in the sadly neglected Plummer’s Hollow blog. The count took place back on the Saturday before Christmas, but Mark’s been too busy playing Scrabble, scarfing cookies, and driving back to Mississippi (1000 miles in one day — I don’t know how he does it) to finish the blog post until now. Here’s how it starts:

On Brush Mountain, Christmas Bird Count — always on a Saturday in mid-December — has normally been bigger than Xmas (the one with Baby Jesus and all that) itself. 2008, the 30th year we have participated in the Juniata Valley Audubon Society’s Culp Count, was no exception. I mean, Christmas itself is OK, what with all the cookies, carols, coffeecake and pagan revelry, but at heart it just isn’t as fun, at least for 3/5ths of the Bonta family, as a day of dawn-to-dusk hardcore birding in any and all weather conditions, followed by a potluck count supper at the Hoyer’s on down the mountain.

Go read the rest.