--In 1896 Harriet Lawrence Hemenway co-founded the Massachusetts
Audubon Society to stop the killing of birds to decorate women's hats.
She's worn aigrettes, admired how prettily
the snowy egrets' mating feathers curve
to frame a woman's face, and yet she knows
plume hunters leave the egrets' chicks to starve,
she's seen the bloody nests and bloody grass
where Southern feather merchants deal out death
as easily as deal a hand of cards.
She spies a roseate tern, the twentieth
today, found counting hats on Newbury Street,
numbering Boston ladies who all tread
past plate glass windows flaunting their dead birds.
Just thirty-nine and bored at home, she's read
that Modern Woman can uplift the Race
but females here boast ignorant displays--
bonnets where saw-whet owls lay eggs on straw,
chapeaux where robins light with squawking jays.
Loathing the taxidermists' bright-eyed art,
she spots a Greater Bird of Paradise,
wonders about new money--streetcar fortune?--
strutting this carcass, scarce at any price.
She's birding for her sanity today,
scanning each head with a flightless landscape on it,
marking the wings and tails. Friends drink her tea,
she snips and sews, designs a birdless bonnet,
she shames ten million preening under claws
and topples feather merchants, fashions laws.
A Grand Display of Fireworks and Illuminations, 1883
When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars, what is man? Psalm 8, 3-4
Catherine Wheel, Common Cracker,
Cracker Bomb, and Cracker Bon-Bon
nest in his cedar sample chest.
Smith pitches shows by Surefire.
For boys who built the Brooklyn Bridge,
he plans a party with Public Works:
Fizz-Gigs, Flares, Lady Fingers,
Roman Candles, cordite cartwheels
will rip the night, ripple the river,
stipple the span of stone and steel,
stripe lifted faces with lingering light.
(Can he sell these guys?) His gestures grand,
Smith whispers speeds and sequences,
waves huge hands as he heaves
and juggles a giant Girandole,
pauses, boosts pyrological pleasures.
Sky-Serpents will slither,
Whiz-Bangs will wheel,
shudder, spill, shower their light.
Humble heelers and party hacks
sniff his gunpowder, grab at greatness,
civil servants share the seduction.
Of course this canny pyrotechnician could
sell salves, shoes, warehouse space,
diamonds, dishes, or Dr. Pepper.
Smith stays with high spectacles.
He turns the talk to rarities,
lightning gashes green, not gold,
rumbling of round Arctic rainbows,
far Northern lights, he nails New York,
makes vast commerce in thermochemical night.
Totaling the tab, Smith tarries to prod
how fixed their funds for fingering the firmament.
"More Farandoles?" "More Flares and Fizz-Gigs?"
Public Works, don't doubt,
you guys are going to outgun God.