Caribbean Literary Salon Blog V

See the diversity

Stopping by trees

focussed on individuals

thalli of colour and form

units of biology

living on bark

in community patterns

related to the conditions

that surface offers for life;

here where the thallus lives.

Grouped through the ages

into genera, the observer

sees, into species that

require a chemist’s senses

What are the intrinsic,

and what are the extrinsic?

the factors that make life here.

A spore grows ontogenetically in

a place suitable for juveniles once

a place where the thallus can fruit

complete the life cycle as the

substrate changes over the years.

Habitats in the forest

are not the easiest

for a tourist to imagine

Night, rain, heat,

sun-flecks, trunk axil

seeps. What can

the resident islander see?

Host trees each

one, watching the

variation intrinsically

as the extrinsic is

thought to differ,

wetter, western, trunk

age, all to genus

as grouped by the observer

all to species if thalli numbered

and patiently seen.

Choices of vegetative reproduction

geometrically tangential to the

surface of the tree, rain

drips and seeps apply chemistry

what bacterifuge is necessary

for life at the surface

of this thallus here. Taxonomic

identity comparison one against one

one has observed before.

Taxonomic insight takes patience

in the forest to see

In the dark shade, the

warm sweats drip and blur

the optical aids vision

of the intrinsic, minds

free for the extrinsic

wondering about the daily

routine, here at this

thallus, physiology.

How does it manage a

shower, how does it manage

at dawn, noon and sunset?

When does a vector interact?

Is the surface alive with

an ant? How sour is

the rain that passes

over? Where do those

tree mists flow in

the valley, where

does the night dew fall?

Does the tree canopy

harvest occultly the

clouds here or

what is this surface

like, leached or


When to move

on to another thallus

to start the routine

again. How slow

do we move in the

forest to see

that thallus taxonomically

Give the pin a number

and write all the answers

methodically of a mindful of

questions organised scientifically

So what is your method

as you are wandering about,

for the method controls the

enlightenment your mind

can perceive. Focus on the

intrinsic, answer the

extrinsic litany.

Start a new thallus

then on, methodically,

until the day is

done. Stand still if you can see

a thallus is front of

you. Move over

barren ground, those

quadrats need scrutiny,

several a day if you are

able, until a week is

done. They say seven

weeks is enough to get

you to the front line.

Look at bark, imagine

the chemistry. Add weather

and dendritic geometry

for then you will see

like a forest master.

One plant whose flower

has never been seen

by mankind, then

you will see the once

off. Taxonomic

insight watching for

the raw edge between

hypothesis and reality.

The anomalies need recording

as they are scientifically,

new, new to science.

Walk, observe, stop, observe,

patiently repeat your litany.

There are hundreds of forms

on the trees of the islands.

How can you see them all

and challenge them for their

reality. Imagine the

muriform, imagine the simple

and where they would start life

on this surface, where do we

look on a tree, to see you.

Once the taxon emerges, then

the botanical use starts, a

predictor of environment on

the surface of a tree

united by physiology

a tolerance of life

nearby, one thallus to

the next, what differences

intrinsically emerge

and can be put down

to extrinsic causality.

Seeing in the forest

with the patience of

a forest master enough

to create a mythology

for an island’s culture

one thallus, one kind

Reality envisioned

and communicated internationally

in lingua latin

The name of species is such.

It is here, pantropically

If you can imagine

the chemistry of

bark in the tropics –

Plant host family

at a glance –

lines of an obsessive

romance with

a subject.

The insights that emerge in

free verse, summarise the

methods we can use to

seek enlightenment

in the forest. Why not

climb a tree, spend

time in the photophilous zone

with varieties of me, zip-lining

is too quick, a mental blur

hanging about the like a sloth

optically observing, remembering

the geography of where on the

island you saw a thallus like that.

This matching mismatching

mentally such names

as we have to handle the

forest, like a forest master,

and create a biological

mythology all carefully

attested in reality.

Deconstruction to unity

reassembly to botany.

Let us see these patterns

as vegetation, patterns

in the forest, visual memes

to stop your walk, so that

you see, the


Walk on

now, go

again to

the wilderness

and watch

the forest.

Pencil to

note your reactions

in your mind

stimulated by

your senses.

Walk on,

see the


Howard Fox, 16 iii 2013

Caribbean Literary Salon Blog II

What (unfinished)

Relax, take it easy, calm your mind, not so fast.

Time is a healer, on your day off.

Isolation is unneccessary, censure is intolerable.

Talk in friendliness about anything,

compose something, talk it out loud,

for your sanity demands it,

connect with other souls, talk about modernity.

Listless in the heat, brain fry complete

deep breath, take it easy,

calm down, not so fast.

Take a walk to a tree,

use your eyes for an exercise

to see what is a twig,

develop the vocabulary to communicate

about an entity external to me,

keep going, screening with your eyes

until you have seen something you did

not know exists, now

take your time, really take it easy,

look at nature, calm, with your mind.

Recreation in nature is an inquisitive enqiry,

what is it like ?

Use your mind to describe this entity,

maybe do a dissection, or a drawing, or a painting,

or a photo, if you are impatient.

Make an image in your mind to communicate with the future

so that we can speak of the same entity,

in the same language, in the same words,

to some other soul, for we are all kindred.

Minister some spiritual kinship, by mentoring

this exercise in clarity, calm from the anxieties

of a distressed mind, a bit of visual yoga.

All you need is a tree, standing nose to a low branch,

shortsighteness helps, and tropical sunlight, to give good acuity,

for to see what is this entity, before me.

I am not the first to need something external,

to drive my tortured concerns away, but perhaps

with the spark of curiosity, looking is something my eyes can do

mindlessly, contribute kinship with that entity,

that needs a bit of dew, and respect too.

Calm the mind from its anxieties

is the exercise here, a diversion perhaps

if it works perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

the scales on the eyes of your perception,

will need a gentle rub, why torture your mind,

with intolerable situations, take a deep breath

and let it all go, keep your eyes open, and

release yourself from the tyrrany of why.

Why, for you have now delved

into the torture of what !

(c) Howard Fox, June 2013

Views: 43

Tags: poetry, tree, visual, yoga

Comment by Howard Fox on June 7, 2013 at 9:16am

In composing this piece as a reaction to Roger Carter’s Why (unfinished), I am conscious of writing the same poem, again and again, on the Caribbean Literary Salon site, with different words. Such a preoccupation it has been warned against, and is common among those who express ideas in lyrical and poetic forms. My concern with the cognitive method of botany is pervasive and a difficult theme to escape from and a lot more needs to be written on this theme. I am also drawing on a conversation with a retired bryologist, Donal Synnott, over the use of the words tyrrany and torture – in botany, the need to provide polite society with scientific names for plants could be considered a tyranny or torture, formalised in binomial nomenclature by Carl Linnaeus, over 250 years ago. The predictive nature of the species and generic hypotheses of science is profound and a pleasure to use. Now we are in the midst of a phase of accommodating genetic information in the botanical synthesis to the detriment of a classical botanical education in morphology or form. In providing this stimulus to Caribbean botany, I trust this Salon will appreciate how to assimilate plants into their national cultures, and this will encourage a few who on the fringes of a botanical enlightement, might take cognitive steps in their observation methods to improve their perception for and respect for plants, that possess a subversive lack of an obvious utilitarian role in the society we live.