Flamingos in Flight and Fantasy

March 13, 2013

Pink and In Flight


We all have images of flamingos.

Someone says the word, and

springing to life there they are:

Ridiculous beaks,

Brilliant pinks.


Perhaps what we see flashing

on the screen inside our head

owes its substance to Walt Disney.


Hippos grasping them by their handle-like beaks,

using them like canes with their wings folded,

in amazingly brilliant colors;

The hippo dancers,

corpulent Fred Astaires,

bending, swaying, twirling

to the bright music.

The faces of the animated flamingos

betraying pain, discomfort, dizziness

as the riverhorses forget the power of their grip,

the speed of their movements.


Or perhaps the image is of the entrance to a zoo,

where a shallow pool shelters 40 or 50

of one of the smaller varieties of flamingos,

plates of pink shrimp set out for them

among the lily pads and undergrowth,

the color in those crunchy, chitinous shells

so necessary to maintain

their garishly beautiful hues.


But my personal favorite image

came when watching them

from the Juticalpa bishop’s rooftop

in the glow of a sunset

already setting the skies ablaze.

Here they were, a dozen or so,

a couple of hundred feet over our heads

– like flying umbrellas unfurled,

and, even seen without the aid

of a movie screen, ridiculous,

leading with their handle beaks,

magnificent, as they crossed the isthmus

that is Central America,

traveling from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico,

ready to land and bend their necks

under their own built-in sleeping shelter;

pink wings, trimmed in black

to snake their long, looping necks under.

I’ll bet you don’t know about Gadsby’s Tavern

ABOVE: Reproduction of George Washington’s town house, where he stayed when in Alexandria, when away from Mount Vernon on business. Visitors to Mount Vernon would also stay here.

January 8, 2013


I’ll bet you don’t know about Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria,

That it served as the ballroom for the birthday celebrations for our first president, or that each of our first five presidents ate and danced there.

I’ll bet you don’t know that beginning in 1778 at Valley Forge, patriots first began to celebrate the future president’s birthday, a practice that continued after his inauguration.

Gadsby’s began celebrating his birthday — with fireworks, dining, and a ball –in 1790, but the founding father himself did not attend there until 1796 and attended again in 1797. (Go to http://www.washingtonbirthday.net for details about the next celebration.)

When Washington learned in April 1789 at Mount Vernon that the Electoral College had chosen him as the nation’s first president, he proceeded first to Alexandria, quite naturally, as he retained a town house there which helped him attend to the plantation’s business dealings when he was in town and served as a place to house visitors on their way to and from Mount Vernon.

Alexandria was his urban address. He helped fund the construction of the Anglican church there and owned a Washington family pew in it, signs of the degree of his involvement.

He held the office of vestryman at Alexandria’s first Episcopal Church, Christ Church.


Gulf Coast Fallout-Birds Caught on Radar

January 3, 2013


Radar finely tuned to track

millions of bats in flight

catches untargeted images of moths.

But best of all it captures cloudy pictures of

giant flocks of migrating birds,

having just crossed the Gulf,

fuel depleted and weak,

forced to drop from the skies

as they reach the Texas coast,

torn from those same skies

by lines of thunderstorms.

whose leading edges

hover just above

the shoreline here.


Fallouts they’re called

as bright, beautiful

jewel-like, tiny birds,

their stored fat exhausted

by the long flight

from Central America,

coat the trees and bushes

of places like High Island,

a hilly spot

only a couple of hundred feet

of promontory

capped with ancient,

live oak forests,

their crowns sloped

by the landward winds,

dotted with fresh water ponds

and a couple of birding’s

holy places: Boy Scout Woods

and the Audobon refuge there.


There on the Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine’s pages

was the radar image of the bird-precipitating storm

and the thousands of Central American migrants.

Close Bison Encounters of Three Kinds

Close Bison Encounters of Three Kinds

April 9, 2013


Buffalo crossing boardwalk-Yellowstone

Flying through the Tetons at 11 p.m.,

the flat dry road inviting us to drive faster than we should,

the shaggy shape in the left lane flashed by us so fast

we didn’t have time to break into a cold sweat.

We’d narrowly avoided crashing into its 1,500 pounds

and were only vaguely aware

that it must have been looking down its drooping muzzle at us

as we sped past.

It had towered over us, close to six feet tall,

and only a handful of deadly inches away.

It had only become visible

as we turned our still breathing heads

to catch a sideways glance.


Our next encounter came inside Yellowstone

where a male buffalo wandered over the

tourist convenience boardwalk near

one of the newly formed attractions here

as seismic activity – and steaming fumaroles and mineral water pools

migrated from the north end of the park to its southern reaches.

The buffalo clearly had the right of way

in this newly gentrified neighborhood,

as he slowly moved his beefy bulk

grazing his way across the gray plank walkway,

seeming not to regard whether he stood

on the sparsely vegetated limestone

or the newly laid boardwalk,

tempting my wife to move ever closer

to get that longed for closeup

of one of our unofficial national symbols.

Too close for my comfort,

but not causing the furry mantle that covered his shaggy shoulders

to stand on end

nor stimulating him enough to have the word “charge” enter his shaggy head.


The next day we were caught in a one-lane traffic jam

on one of the roads that cut through and encircle

the interior of Yellowstone’s two million acres.

Stoppages along its roads were both common and inevitable,

given the large numbers of vehicles.

Rangers had turned into traffic cops,

spending much of their time untying knots of vehicles

accumulating where a pronghorn or buffalo herd or elk

could be easily seen from the roadside, backing up traffic

for  a quarter mile or more.

But this was a one-lane jam. It was curious.

We inched along, bumper to bumper,

while the left lane remained oddly unencumbered.

We’d been doing this a while

when the 4 p.m. express buffalo approached from the opposite direction

at a full canter –unimpeded, I might add — in the left lane

zipping past us, leaving us still unenlightened

about the reason for our own blockage,

but thoroughly entertained and vastly relieved

to be having this “inches away” close encounter

in the daylight, with plenty of steel clad company

fore and aft.

buffalo, highway, yellowstone

Helping poetry find its way again…



In the introduction to his eclectic poetry collection, A Book of Luminous Things, Nobel Prize winning poet Czeslaw Milosz describes the way poetry might be used to remedy some of the ills of our too secularized, too atomized, too far removed from meaning — of any kind — society.

“The world deprived of clear-cut outlines, of the up and the down, of good and evil, succumbs to a peculiar nihilization, that is, it loses its colors, so that grayness covers not only things of this earth and of space, but also the very flow of time, its minutes, days, and years. Abstract considerations will be of little help, even if they are intended to bring relief. Poetry is quite different. By its very nature it says: All those theories are untrue. Since poetry deals with the singular, not the general, it cannot — if it is good poetry — look at things of this earth other than as colorful, variegated, and exciting, and so, it cannot reduce life, with all its pain, horror, suffering, and ecstasy, to a unified tonality of boredom or complaint. By necessity, poetry is terror on the side of being and against nothingness.”

Beauty, love, life, death, the blurred chatter of a kingfisher in flight, the variety of living things one human can see, the sense of the numinous behind the physical, bringing a glow of the luminous. These are a few of the gifts poetry can bring us. What better way to wipe out “nihilization” than with the living presence of “words, words, words.”

I plan to share poetry and prose of my own on this site, with the hope of bringing a little light myself.

Jeff Lane Hensley

–Click Read More Button for first Poem: Wild Plum Punctuation


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