|Photo by Charles Hood|
A few years later, I was lucky enough to go on the last bird-watching tour that she and her partner, Colleen Rooney, led, this one to Ecuador. A good ten days in a bus with both of them (not to mention all those amazing birds—which no, weren't on the bus) was and remains one of the biggest privileges and delights I've had in my life.
In 2012 Eloise was named the first Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. In April 2013 she experienced a serious case of encephalitis, which resulted in aphasia, affecting her relationship with speech and language. By all accounts (this one from 2014 in the LA Times, and this one from the Antioch Creative Writing journal Lunch Ticket last year), she has been fighting back mightily—her life spark was not diminished one whit, her feisty humor and sweet sensitivity remain bright.
Here are two poems, one written for Colleen, the other reminiscent for me of our Ecuador trip: of the wildlife and the colors, but also of writing exercises Eloise invited us to do while we were traveling. I started a little piece of prose (a prose poem, perhaps) that I've never developed. Maybe it's time to revisit it. In honor of Eloise.
A Wild Surmisefor Colleen
I left my house and home
to come to you, to live
in that country that had no name.
All that I was, all that I had
came to you with a wild surmise
that some other world
and opening. There were stories
to be written and told.
What colors would fill
those skies? What songs
of birds? There was never
a hint of Paradise or its alarms.
We knew that we would be
the wilderness and all that can be found there.
More than twenty years on, we are the trees
and we are the two rivers—
one brown, one blue—
and the ocean they become
after furious travels and falls,
rapids and deep pools.
We have seen as much
in ourselves and in one another,
living parallel yet knit together
feather upon feather.
No one else, no one else can claim us,
only the expansive and beautiful world
always before us
like that peak in the Darien,
always inside us, about to blossom
with the proof we are her own.
Memorize ThisThe Green Honeycreeper
The soft jade chrysalis of Blue Morpho
The green anole lizard
The broad green leaves of the cecropia
The green adventurine stones in a bracelet
The green of green of green
in dracena, agapanthus,
heliconia, water lily,
beetle back, iguana, Palm Tanager,
Green-backed Heron, Coppery-headed Emerald,
Resplendent Quetzal, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Amazon Kingfisher,
the green of swirly Sarapiqui River swimming in its banks.
The green rind lining in the sunset,
the green fall of night, the deep green sleep
in the jungle's lap.
The restless green dream
clearing its throat, shuffling
the celadon pages of its story,
the neon green letters saying "the end"