Alaska to Florida
Not your usual neighborhood
Copyright © 2004 by Carl Lahser. All rights reserved. If you must copy any part of this work please give the author appropriate credit.
Published by: Pretense Press
6102 Royal Breeze
San Antonio, TX 78239
Other books by the author:
Cabo San Lucas
San Antonio Wildflowers by the Month
Hong Kong 1979
Snapshots of the North
Teacher, Leaves Don’t Change Color
Forty Years of Fishing
Chasing the Enterprise
Searching for the Phantom Crown
Cross-section through a Rainbow
Flowers of the Air
Backdoor to the Yukon
Ecoview 1 - Not Your Usual Neighborhood
Ecoview 2 - Texas
Ecoview 3 - D.C.
Ecoview 4 - St Louis to Minneapolis
Ecoview 5 - Southwest
Ecoview 6 - Green Things
Hey Momma, When we Goin Again
Under the Southern Cross (Under Clouds)
Texas to Alaska
Mr. Cuul in Yucatan
Thinking of Flying
Do Bears do it in the Woods
All titles are available from Pretense Press. Booksellers
are encouraged to write for seller’s information.
Printed in USA.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Arctic Noon 1
Downtown Geese 1
Giant Shadows 2
Atlanta Trilogy 3
Charlotte, NC 5
Indiana Relic forest 7
Memphis Oxymoron 8
Memphis Marshalling Slough 8
Cows Cast Long Shadows 9
Missed Opportunity 9
Southern Autumn Sextet 11
Mississippi River in the Snow 13
Smoky Mountain Back Roads 14
Tennessee Farms 15
Panama City/Tyndall Beach
Nagauta Beach 17
Tyndall Beach in September 18
Ecoview No. 1 is the first of a series of poetographic portraits. They are sensitive, mater-of-fact, and possibly controversial verbal pictures of man and several cities and their interactions with nature. Wet leaves. Wild flowers. Oxbow lakes. Back roads. Urban renewal. Neither for nor against anything in particular, these are observations, just the way I see things. Feel free to disagree. Even I change my mind on rereading some of these insights.
I stepped out for lunch
into the late September Anchorage sun
and found my shadow
3 o'clock long
but pointing northward
Downtown Anchorage projects upwards,
a dozen tall buildings.
Geese, forming up to fly south,
at the ten-story level
in long, honking Vees.
and turn southward
in the late September sun.
An architecturally lighted
white brick facade
of a twelve story parking garage
in downtown Anchorage
provides a large white screen
A fluttering shadow is projected-
US and Alaska flags
on a four story pole.
A pigeon, sleeping on the rooftop,
awakened from its sleep
flew upward through the light.
Circling, it cast a giant shadow
on this canvas
before settling down,
Atlanta Trilogy -1992
Peachtree St., Atlanta.
quivering like a horny teenage male
wanting to become a man
but not knowing how
indiscriminately ejaculating wealth
on one block like
Brooks Brothers and Macys
and the Omni Hotel
yet knowing the frustration of blight
on the next block where
Tokyo Shapiro's Quick Chinese Food
is closed for an eternal lunch break
and the One-Hour Valet Cleaners
will now take forever.
The city grows fast and matures slowly.
It is one AM.
A room for the night in this hotel
costs more than a day’s wage.
At that it's cheap for Atlanta.
I can hear every door close
and every toilet flush.
It's all better when I hear
singing its heart out
under halogen security lights
and a small sliver of silver moon.
A boutique in the hotel district
that sells African art
to black Americans.
The art is new
from Nigeria and Tanzania.
but at antique prices.
This art depreciates
when it leaves the shelf.
Should a brother do this to a brother?
Charlotte could be a smaller twin of many small cities
and some big ones, too.
Urban renewal gutted downtown,
ran the retailers off to the malls,
displaced the inner-city homeowners
and demolished old neighborhoods.
The city, on most of the downtown
urban renewal land,
encouraged hotel complexes
and high rise office buildings
then wondered where the people went.
Urban renewal projects were completed.
New brick streets and sidewalks.
New benches and bus shelters.
New trees planted along the sidewalks.
New raised flower beds (city maintained).
New grass and trees in the medians.
Where are the citizens, the people
for whom this was done?
(There must be an echo in here somewhere!)
Yuppies from the 'burbs
occupy the corporate desks by day
but downtown is deserted
after the quitting time.
Commuters hurry home to the ‘burbs.
Restaurants and shops close.
Nothing moves downtown
after working hours.
But Charlotte had an idea.
The library was renovated, enlarged.
Spirit Square was completed with
five art galleries,
three small theatres,
and workshops for dance and crafts.
Discovery Place has a zoo,
a rain forest and aquarium,
the museum of science and natural history,a planetarium,
and an Imax theatre.
Children are bussed downtown
to see these wonders and
to begin getting the next generation
back to downtown.
The Charlotte power brokers want
a professional football franchise
but the PEOPLE prefer
to watch college football.
They WILL learn to like pro ball.
Most cities have no plan
other than that which power brokers
tell the ignorant mass of voters
is good for them.
The few rich and powerful get more so
while small businesses
and the taxpayer suffer.
People don't live in cities
People live in communities.
With farsighted and unselfish planning
any city could become a community
but don't hold your breath.
INDIANA RELIC FORESTS
Flying over Indiana in the Fall
I see relic forests that once covered all.
These forest, thin and serpentine,
Forests not at all like those found
by resourceful Indians
or by hardy European settlers seen.
The great trees were taken from the Indian
and laid to earth
to free the land for village
A relic forest now yellow and red,
still harbors endangered plants
and sheltered copses where
wildlife young are fed.
Our new, dynamic instrument
replacing an ecosystem
that was, itself, a postglacial immigrant.
Orderly rows of warehouses,
parked tractor trailers,
docks and barge strings
Try to fit on an irregular flood plain
along the sweeping bends
of the Mississippi River.
Square pegs in round holes
MEMPHIS MARSHALLING SLOUGH
A marshalling tug pushes
barges into a mile long train
and stirs up sediment until the slough
is tan as the dry flood plain.
COWS CAST LONG SHADOWS TOO
Flying into Memphis in the early morning
trees cast long shadows.
So do the power poles and water tanks.
The shadow of the plane
falls darkly on the low white clouds.
A lone milk cow standing in a meadow
patiently grazing casts a long shadow too.
We taxied north at Memphis
on Northwest flight 1161.
A red sun set behind blue clouds,
summer solstice eve was done.
If we had taken off just minutes before
we might have seen the sun rise in the west
but at the end of a long hard day
perhaps just one sunrise
and one sunset in a day is best.
DEPOSITS IN THE BANK OF THE MISSISSIPPI
Sand deposits two feet deep
cover fields and smothers trees.
The sand stops grass and crops
and will cost a bundle
to remove or plow under.
These bottomland fields
got top soil and silt gifts
all tan and white
from careless Minnesota farmers
Trees in the bottoms are dead
from a six month immersion
that cut off oxygen
and killed the roots
They are just waiting to lie down.
Light tan patterns in reddish fields
mark the low spots where water stood
concentrating seed banks in these swales
SOUTHERN AUTUMN SEXTET
1. SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA
Six forest fires
pumping white wood smoke
into a white, polluted sky.
White, wet wood smoke
spread in a horizontal layer
under an inversion lie.
2. RED RIVER VALLEY
Visible for a hundred miles
pink sand fields in the floodplain
encroaching on slash pine forests
Farm and forest, both for man's gain?
3. MISSISSIPPI FLOODPLAIN
Busier than a wedding ring quilt
the oxbows and meanders
have painted the land
from a pastel palette of sand and silt.
from a pastel palette of sand and silt.
4. GREEN OXBOWS
Oxbow lakes of fluorescent green
fed by fertilizer from surrounding fields.
Killing miles of eutrophic streams
by increasing agricultural yields.
5. MISSISSIPPI RICE FARMS
Acres of rectangular paddies
reflecting many shades of green and blue
The tan ones have been harvested
and the dried rice already sent to you.
6. CYPRESS SWAMPS IN FALL
with dark cypress trees
surrounded by rafts of green watermeal
up to their knobby knees.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER IN THE SNOW
Cold November rain and sullen skies
are left behind
in Washington DC.
We climb through the clouds of gray to find
bright sun and blue skies
more settling to the mind.
West we flew above the overcast
until we passed
The ground appeared at last.
Tennessee and Arkansas
covered with snow
Roads, fence lines, ponds
and shadowy trees are all that show.
Blue-black against the fields of white
the sinuous Mississippi River
drained of its might
cold and blue-black, silent
waiting for the snow to melt
to renew its power creating a flood tide
a tan mixture of water and topsoil
depleting yet cleansing
the site for the farmers toil
SMOKY MOUNTAIN BACK ROADS
Narrow two lane roads with no shoulders
Rippling streams with pools and boulders
Pine trees with kudzu
crows and chickadees
fallen logs with moss
and solitary carpenter bees
into fog on many days,
mountain ranges silhouetted
in a smoky haze
Oak Ridge labs
nestled in the wooded hills
placed Plutonium 'neath the mud
of cool, clear mountain rills
- birds and clams -
contend with open pit coal mines
and TVA multipurpose dams.
Land of progress
and contrast -
a Rebel past.
Fields of sandy loam
wrested from the forest
mottled and streaked tan and brown
where the flooding Mississippi
deposited Minnesota silt and sand
Mottled tan sandy fields
where curving terraces
mark constant elevation
retard soil erosion
and retain life-giving water
Green strips of windbreaks planted
to slow the cold, wet winter wind
provide wildlife habitat and food
Soil Conservation Service
specials from the 1930's
Small, square clapboard house
with a rusted tin roof
sitting in a field of green
surrounded by FHA trees
no trace on man's recent use
anywhere near the abandoned house.
A house just so
with trees just so
and outbuildings just so
mark Farm and Home Administration houses financed just so.
The Florida Panhandle
Sand warmed by the sun
squawks and squeeks under bare feet
like fresh moonlit snow
Sand bugs run with waves
fleeing to the ebbing sea
like ducks heading south.
Evening clouds gather
to cushion the sinking sun
large and red at dusk.
Three pelicans fly
across the flaming red disc.
The day ends in peace.
TYNDALL BEACH IN SEPTEMBER:
SCENES for a NATURALIST
Setting: Predawn through the day and into the night, 24 hours the beach at Tyndall Air Force Base. This beach is located east of Panama City, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico.
SCENE 1: Breaking Day
Ghostly birds sit quietly or
run on the beach flirting with the waves
waiting for the sun to rise.
The ghost birds fly as I approach.
leaving no tracks.
At extreme low tide
the beach has a step down
into the moat
where the water depth increases
to several feet.
Schools of juvenile fish,
blue crabs and
cruise the step
feeding on the largess
from the incoming sea and retreating waves.
A stingray flies silently
on rippling wings along the step,
and, with a flip of its fringing fins,
disappears into the sand.
Only its eyes and gill slits
remain in sight
A small cloud of sand
and crushed shells
is expelled from its gill slits
and the hunt for clams continues.
A lone Terebellid bristleworm,
pulled from its tube in the sand
by a small sandpiper,
lies twisting and gyrating
trying to orient itself
no longer in the confining but
nondimensional sand matrix
like a swimmer in an undertow.
SCENE 2: Mid Day
A wave retreats
Ans a herd of small shapes scurry
in random patterns
beating the retreating wave
back to the ocean
diving into and swimming through the fluid wet sand
Emerita (Hippa) talpoida, the sand bug
their molted exoskeletons litter the beach.
In a mass of eel-grass
stranded on the beach by a retreating wave
lie several empty skate egg cases
their purpose achieved
this kin of the stingray lays its eggs
in black, leathery protective pouches
The Devil's Coin Purse, five inches long
with a horn on each corner.
A hundred species of shells
decorate the beach
most are broken not by storms
but crunched by octopus
or fish like the Drum
many are pierced by small round holes
of the predatory Urosalpinx cinerea
feeding on their cousins
others are pulled open and devoured
by the starfish, Echinaster sentus
A three by five inch sea slug
a nudibranch of the family Dorididae
lies stranded above the last wave
its translucent oval body
cream and lemon yellow
half buried in the sand
Placed back in the sea
it swims away slowly
SCENE 3. Towards Evening
White sand dollars are dead
Whole or in pieces sand dollars
lie on the beach among the shells
Live sand dollars live in the surf
just below the low tide line
brown-green circles decorating the sand
small, thin and rounded Dendraster
larger, fatter Echinarachnius parma
Both charm the beachcomber
Warm afternoon sand squawks
under bare feet
like footsteps in fresh snow
in the moonlight.
I never tried bare feet in the snow
The afternoon cumulus clouds
gather on the horizon
as if to cushion
the red sinking sun
Three pelicans in formation
the inflated red ball
and crash into the sea
SCENE 4. Night
From the lighted parking lot
past the bath house
where a dozen tree frogs seek mates
to the boardwalk
where the hum of mosquitoes
is muted by passionate calls
of five kinds of frogs and toads
playing a symphony
as my hollow thunking footsteps
take me to the moon lit beach
Beach and Surf
A full moon approaches its zenith
lighting the beach
the sand glows a milky white
wet broken shells sparkle
in the moonlight
A coyote hunting crabs, spooked,
runs off into the dunes
An ebbing tide is near its lowest point
quiet ghostly waves slosh on the sand
waves pursue and attract
feeding Plovers and Sandpipers
dark running shapes running
up and down the hard packed beach
A Blue Crab, Callinectes sapidus,
into a retreating wave,
retreating from my muffled footfalls
Ghost crabs of the genus Ocypoda
With eye stalks raised, they hesitate then
run on tip-toes in the moon light
to their burrows in the sand
Bites of Salt Marsh Mosquitoes
their hum almost drowning the returning surf
finally drive me
from the early morning beach
SCENE 5: Hurricane Opal
1. The Storm
The boardwalk leads to the beach
as cold gray clouds sit on the horizon
The strangely lit sea is uncommonly flat
with the impression of being oily
Cumulus clouds build
sundogs and itinerant showers
walk across the bays
and down the beaches
The wind rises and the surf builds
huge swells run over the barrier islands
and break on the beach with a rumble
and an explosion of flying spume
The waves press higher on the beach
until they lap at the base of the dunes
rising wind howls and blows the surf higher
large drops of stinging rain fly horizontally
the stinging drops cutting into the dunes
The storm surge carries the sea
and its flotsam over the dunes
into spartina marches
and pine forest a mile inland
The wind falls off and the surf declines
as the eye of the hurricane
passes fifty miles to the west
The boardwalk has gone with the wind
The wind dies
its roar fading to a moan.
Clouds and rain slacken and
sundogs again walk the ocean
Pine, oaks and seaoats die in the salt water
or are burned on the windward side
desiccated by the salty spray
or hundred mile winds
The beach is rearranged
Dunes are gone
replaced by five-foot piles of relic sand
several deep cuts almost succeeded
in punching through to St Andrews Bay
Headwalls, docks and other beach structures
are gone or non-functional
but the observation tower remains
A 24-foot sailboat lies stranded on the beach
far from the water
Gulls have a field day harvesting