Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's Part 31.2 (Jonathan Skinner)

Birds of Tifft
Skinner, Jonathan
Birds of Tifft

Given to me by the author. Inscribed:

For Mike,

The shepherd on the hill.




(On a completely random side note, the blogger interface is very frustrating when it comes to line spacing in blog posts. Single spacing works fine, but double spacing, especially of single likes, creates problems. If I type in a poem, for instance, the line breaks look okay, but the stanza breaks always add an extra space, so it's really a triple space. This is fairly common in internet interfaces, and one can usually get around it by using shift+return when doing paragraphs. For whatever reason, this has stopped working on blogger, so I have to go into the html code and remove the extra
tag after each mis-coded line. I am sure you find this fascinating.)

Inside the book I found a photograph of our old cats, Mamacat and Babycat. They are sitting on the floor of our old kitchen, squeezed into a pair of cardboard boxes in which had been delivered our most recent shipments of Peet's Coffee. We no longer order from them. They were expensive to begin with, but when they raised their prices a year or so ago, it was just too much.

Anyhow, this is the last day for Jonathan Skinner.

Tifft is an urban nature preserve in Buffalo. Overlooking the shore of lake erie, it sits on a landfill and an old railroad bed in the shadow of Buffalo's towering monuments to the industrial age, the grain elevators. Jonathan discovered Tifft soon after he arrived in Buffalo and started taking regular walks there. It's kind of a remarkable place, and you get a great sense of it from reading Jonathan's book. Not being a huge nature person myself, it took meeting Lori, who is something of a nature person, to get me to start visiting Tifft myself.

We visited a few times a year, usually once or twice in summer and once in the winter, when you can rent old school snowshoes to wander through the barren wastes. Often you'd see large herds of deer wandering through the woods. I always found them kind of terrifying. They would act as if they had just been stopped in the proverbial headlights, only as a group. I'd be walking along one of the paths snaking through the woods when suddenly I'd look to one side and see ten or twenty deer, frozen still, all of them staring at me. I was always waiting for them to start charging after me. They never did, thankfully.

Either through Jonathan or on our own we discovered that the chickadees in Tifft were quite sociable. If you brought some bread and held the crumbs in your open palm, arm elevated slightly skyward, the chickadees would land in your hand and take the bread. I always took a kind of child-like pleasure in seeing them eat from my hand.

I took many poets on walks through Tifft when they visited. Not as many as I took to Niagara Falls or just to see the grain elevators, but a fair number. I remember wandering around with Anselm Berrigan. Jonathan may or may not have been with us. One time, Laynie Brown got snowed in and stayed with us for a weekend and we took her for a hike in the snow one February day.

Another time I remember sitting on a bench with Lori holding hands.

from Birds of Tifft

Tifft Log

washed the bird shit
off my car
training for combat
in urban centers
Ayn Rand institute
supports the blacklist
Schlesinger's still afraid
of the commies

put your names
at the top of the paper, kids

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