Such a Waste of Stars
Tom Crawford
(The Search)
We've always favored Tom Crawford and his poetry. We reviewed his book Wu Wei several years ago - - - and were smitten by it. He had a poem in it about a loon which was very Crawfordish: understated, a touch of wonder that such things should be, the death of a loon,

    died, caught, I'll bet
    in that gill net out there
    held up by those big orange balls
    stretched halfway across Tulalip Bay.
    The Indian fisherman had to haul you up
    then disentangle you
    like so much stringy, green kelp . . .

Crawford, as is his wont, can even make a lapidary aside on birds and death and mourning, make it work, somewhat wry, even scolding - - - with a touch of the Buddha hiding underneath it all.

    Listen bird, I'm past making death sad.
    The tide has no time for wakes
    or tragedies. We're either coming in
    or going out. It's like that,
    the soul for a while boxed up
    in feathers or this frail
    human body of mine.

§   §   §

We put Crawford's "Companion to a Loon" together with a hundred or so other poems in our terrific anthology, The Vivisection Mambo. This brought us a very Crawfordish letter from Santa Fe, where the poet lives, and, as he says in the poem "Redwing," going about town with a bird in his mouth might make him suspect.

My memories of Santa Fe are such that I don't think people around there would mind such a conceit, although the poet worries, says

    But if I start smiling because
    there's a bird inside me,
    you can guess how long I'll be allowed out,
    alone. So, like a few others,
    to remain free, I play that down . . .

I wanted to call him up and assure him that if people can run about on the streets dressed as chickens or ducks or lions (I once saw someone in Burbank dressed as a giraffe), I suspect he's safe with a redwing somewhere there inside. At least if it doesn't make too much noise. Think Big Bird.

Being a bird, Crawford tends to be a bit cagey in his verse, not throwing too much Me into his writings, thank god. His philosophy is let out gently, as if he were fishing around the Sound from the end of a drifting launch, with a fishing pole, likely bamboo, a crawdaddy hanging on out on the end there, hoping that a Pinnatus Batfish will take the bait.

Or maybe we should think fruit tree:

    It's silly to talk to the peach tree
    about future pies, that's why
    we have portfolio managers
    for those who want to get ahead,
    which can be hell on a good night's sleep.

I don't know all that many poets who can squeeze peach trees and portfolio managers baked together in a single pie-poem. He does it and does it with a verve.

You should get Such a Waste of Stars if you can figure out how to scare it up. I spent some time on Google trying; in fact, me being me, I almost made The Search the focus of this review. But, Crawford and I apparently prefer loons or redwings or a black-headed grosbeak with a lesser scaup much more than a fret about the Google . . . so let's leave nets - - - for people, not for birds - - - to another review, another day.

--- Lolita Lark
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