Howard Fox on Dante’s endgame in the Amazon

In reading The Dipper’s Acclaim and other essays again in the last fortnight, I am making distillate of a vision of John Feehan’s inspirational text and how it moderates mine. John has of course four major books Slieve Bloom, Laois, Bogs of Ireland and Farming in Ireland, in addition to his spiritual reflections on Laudato Si. This last book has been our recommended reading at the Corracloona Old School, Kiltyclougher, in County Leitrim, this week.

This latter book concern is the ecological conversion from the Augustinian to the Franciscan view of nature. The land use conflict and extinction turmoil that this change in philosophical guidance is attempting to moderate is devastating, as seen by soy and beef farming and the fires set in the Amazon on 10th August 2019, Dante’s endgame. The destruction of nature is the financial crime of the millennium.

The taxonomic tools we have for understanding the organization of nature is won by studying the morphology of species alive in the Amazon and nature everywhere in the global forest. We have had scholars of Brazil like Vainio in 1890 and Cacares 2011. Now she is organizing a lichen congress in Brazil in 2020 with the blessing of the International Association of Lichenologists’. These scholars have set a framework for the comprehension of the Amazon from the perspective of the genera and species of lichens on tree bark, intellectual insight showing that the Amazon is tractable and not to be feared. Lusophone literature on the Amazon shows the cultural abuses against nature have at least half a millenium’s lead in.

Taking the townland of Corracloona on the lakeshore of Upper Lough Mac Nean in North Letirim on the shore road between Glenfarne and Kiltyclougher where I am currently installed as a lichen studying hermit, I want to explore some insights on these topical concerns in my usual way.

Consider the lilies

It is not complexity rather the elegance

of plant parts, their veining and their form

That provides us with a congruence of consanguinity

Units of composition, order and harmony

That reveals our wonder in

The taxonomic aspiration for species

Consider the lilies

A bog myrtle and a sedge

Myrica gale and Carex panicea

The utricles in September

Transcending inference and analogy

A hopeful contemplation for the future

New to science once, but from nature first,

Predicted in another place

Open to another mind

Genetic readings of a plant part

A synapomorphic insight

in our vigil on life.

Ask not what you can do

The leap of recognition

A signal of joy

Of an encounter

With a specimen

Of a species

Known from literature before

New to us, admitted to our skeptical reality.

The extinction of micro-habitats of species

In the Amazon inferno

and across the masai warrior

plains of the pale of Ireland

Is the crisis and war of our time

Cast this injunction

In the extinction rebellion

To temper the flames

We apprehend you

Slow you with a sample

Of nature herself

The latin binomial

Of a novelty

only encountered in nature

Fathomable facets

Of a townland

A hopeful contemplation

for the future

Beyond the inferno

Forest bureaucratically dismissed

as farmland

the financial crime

of the millennium.

Howard Fox

5 September 2019

Nine Worlds

Our very own Yggdrasil fell the other day,
An Ash tree,
holding Nine Worlds in its branches and roots.
Bourne from the Well of Urd, right here by the Tolka,
snowbound and closed, storm Emma blew
from the East-North-East for three days:
Wednesday ‘til Saturday.

Glasnevin watched over this ‘Waterer’s Variety’ Ash
in the far grounds, number 1888.011023.
This 30 metre tree – some 120 years old, graceful,
holding Nine Worlds in its branches and roots.

A yellow flame of Chrysothrix candelaris
on its latticed trunk, made it visible from afar.
Honey fungus, at a root buttress,
was noted, 14 September, five years ago,
warning that its time was near.
Armillaria gallica, a honey fungus variety
has rotted out its fifth of the root plate.

Nine Worlds of our very own Yggdrasil were alive here, last week.
Leafy lichens of 20 kinds,
crusty ones and fungi of another 20 sorts.
Nine fungal infections of lichens,
five mat-forming mosses, three cushioned ones,
two liverworts and a 16-spot ladybird, in an Ash tree.

Sixty species crowned this Glasnevin village Ash:
all grown from wild gardener’s spores,
30 years afresh in Mary Harney’s clean air.
Our very own Yggdrasil
holding Nine Worlds in its branches and roots,
full of cryptogamic spore bark life,
a centre of spiritual cosmos,
right here by the Tolka, the Ash that fell the other day.

Howard FOX, Botanist, 7-8 iii 2018

Mushroom botany … for the sake of beauty

This poem was composed after a concise explanation of mushroom taxonomy focused on the specimen, the species, the genus and the family, was set out in conversation in the evening after a mushroom foray, at Longueville House, Mallow, County Cork. I dedicate this poem to Jim Fraser. Another title that works for this piece is – Mushroom Taxonomy. .

I.
The carpophore is true.
This stalked fruit body is true.
A specimen is real to me,
And, is real to you.
A stem, with cap, and gills,
you have…
A specimen is one true,
one true, taken from nature,
one true, made from this.

Fruit bodies of one species…
ought to have properties in common.
Features of cap,
features of stem,
and features of gills,
all that are true,
by God, by colour, by form,
by growth, by life, by all.

Congruence in morph,
equal in tone,
over the cap,
equal in zones,
neat radial gills,
attached equal in some way,
with stem surface parts …
equally rolled,
over the round.

Species is the ultimate unit
science creates to cope with this –
variation on the round, of
features of cap, gill and stem.
A name to go with it…
The species epithet…
we have to use it, now and then,
when we, who know and see it,
when we, see it again,
the name of the species …
is the epithet, we know it by.
And this will be the name we call it,
when nothing has escaped our eye.

A genus is a way of grouping,
A way of grouping species …
By pairs of species that share some features,
Whether we have the words or not
Things that are made of the same sort,
Things that are made of the same kind,
Things that form in the same kind of way,
Congeners share …
Congeners are our decision
on the closely knitted group.

Families, then, are more abstract, with a few, or more, principles in common …
Spore print colour …
White, cream, pink, cinnamon or dark purplish black …
Stem cap and gills for an agaric,
Stem cap and pores for a bolete,
Stem cap and folds for a girolle,
Gills break easy or milk when reflexed in Russulaceae
Families, then, are more abstract, with a few, or more, principles in common …

II.
The name we use botanically is a binomial of genus and species –
The genus: a predictor of form,
and the species: the one of that kind.
The family placement: an overview that we summarize.

Bizarre that taxonomy is so predictable,
the same result each time.
Constructed on logical argument,
and close observation of …
mycological colour, morphology and anatomy, studied optically.
Taxonomy is the consensus about the same kind.

Imagine the groups,
imagine genera,
something that comes with experience,
comes with a synopsis of one’s specimen examinations…
Drawing together forms in common,
that look the same,
that dissect the same,
that live in the same worlds …
of lacustrine moss …
but have different words – Massalongia carnosa fertile, foliose, Polychidium muscicola fertile, fruticose,
Imagine creating a family: Massalongiaceae
Logically needed for this congruence…

Put together a taxonomic system,
the goal of systematic botany,
A system to cope with all species,
is a sort of a yoke …
A yoke that makes sense of
All what we have seen …
living and growing in nature,
with logical keys to separate out
this from that,
that we can cope with,
a yoke to make nature comprehensible,
to those folk
with the insatiable curiosity
to look, and provoke.

Collect, observe, magnify,
draw, colour and illustrate.
Name and label the parts,
and distill into science,
a taxonomic method,
for enlightenment …

Writing up species for human utility is no way…
Use taxonomic honesty, systematic creativity, and floristic reality …
to describe our lands’ vegetation geography, for conservation, in a prescribed legal way,
to make destruction of each life, a species taboo, with which we inhibit
the banker’s and their chainsaw’s …
greed
in a society that destroys beauty.

Howard FOX

Gazing across tree tops

Cloud mist in wafts rising across
tree tops, sentinels under a grey sky
late morning and still.
Forest walkers below,
hushed by branches of needles,
unaware of the watcher above,
track-bound, receding now,
around to the next stream bridge.

Blue sky opens a small window to the North,
otherwise grey. Pottering away,
listing species from a chalk lined plot,
pencil busy on notebook, clinometer out,
bark slope taken, camera shot.
Leader bark with a few needles attached,
stem spines prickle the skin
below my hand holding fist.

The tree flexes as one moves,
a step up to a new branch,
swing around to the other side,
to do the North plot next.
A new vista across the hills
with hedge-rowed fields for miles away.
The day is improving and
the cloud base is rising,
bluer now, greener too,
air washed by rain saturates colours.
My eye rests on a white-washed farm yard,
with red-roofed sheds, among winter brown hedges,
and wet grass fields.

Another push and the list is complete,
notebook packed away, with some time to one-self.
Unfurl a teabag string, douse in the flask,
the hot liquid greens, ready for reverie,
tree top tea, with a stray spruce needle
floater, for the lips to avoid.
A grey tractor moves in the farm yard,
damp soft sounds in a lower landscape,
from the hill forest,
gazing across tree tops.

Howard Fox (C) 2015

What

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,
short-sighteness 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

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
flushed.

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
diversity.

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
diversity.

Howard Fox, 16 iii 2013
Views: 25
Tags: botany, consiousness, discipline, of, poetry, stream, taxonomy

Before reacting to europanto

Parataxonomy and Optical ambition

Microscopy of mountain land
ascospore sizes of all fertile crusts
slides and cover slips
ascus photomicrographs neatly
measured by graticule
each volcanic island, measured and compared
Vincent versus Lucia, unequal effort provides history for each hypothesis
a species concept for insularity
in the tropical heat, Soufriere’s whiff in a cauldron of lichenological creativity
Dominica’s thelotremes versus Guadeloupe’s, Martinique versus Grenada
An Atlas for a young intellectual’s eyesight.

Attached to a tree
Crustose blade attacks
Sovereignty transferred to a museum sector
types and standards measured immaculately
the taxonomic exploration for an island,
one genus and family at a time,
foretold in forests.

[On the scientific ambition of many years work]

The Dunsany’s Ending

Charon rowed his Pirogue mirthlessly across the Styx
The dull pains in his athletic arms ached and
his face grimaced at each passanger like they both had
for thousands of years of time.
The routine of fifty souls from the island a day had increased for a month
to thousands and then declined to almost none.
In a week without calls for crossings, his time weary aches eased and he thought
‘The ways of the gods of this time on the island were strange’
At the end of the journey across, one shadowy soul whispered
‘I am the last’. Charon concentrated on the final strokes ashore,
and with a withering swish of his oars, Charon smiled at him.

SUNDOWN AT MARIGOT

In the evening sun
sipping a glass of rum
bringing a bit of heat to my cheek
the left ear hot and sizzled
the right lobe breezy in shade
looking out on the deck to the bay
elbows comfortable in my chair
a poet’s clipboard above my knee
sharpened pencil galloping across
line after line of words
imagining being at Marigot Bay
Pencil grip firm in the heat
now with a sun burned cheek
Pour me some more rum

Sundown at Marigot (continued)

Heat that warms your bones
Incandescent backbone aches melt away,
earlobe breezes startle irregularly,
your shadow shades the grass, denies them some evening pleasure
as a cloud crosses to melt the shadows away
Grass blade quivers, waiting until the fall of day
Look back at grey clouds, absorbing the sunlight like a sponge
fluffy and hey, I need to get back to Marigot some day

Pacing around, pencils clipboard bound
with a luminous brightness the clouds will release thee soon
while I wait, a few drops hiss on the hair on the back of my knuckle,
and others miss in their entireity
Mew heat to keep the spirit flowing
and calm, warm and glowing
would the clouds ever part
and give me a new blast from Icarus’ Inferno
to melt the waxes on skin
that a few moments ago I was sunbathing in.

Pacing works, movement allows
the reassignment of sun to your back
exercise and territorial tresspass
allow your shadow to shade the road
greenery released to double one’s pleasure.
May the tarmac boils subside while I am outside
getting a penetrating fourth verse
of a submission to Saint Somewhere
as a cloud whimsys away across
a blue azule backdrop.

For eventually I will get to Marigot
On one fine evening
The bone heats and ear sweats dribble,
while the draught of the tipple burns away at the gullet
as there is a verse to do.
May the sunshine in Marigot this evening
as I imagine it to.

[First verse posted on CLS, September 2012]

This is not a Mosquito

In Bed with Byron, writing in pencil
children are safe and the wit is instead.
Hail fair mirror where is dost cobweb
above your head saliently moved above the head board
preserved but moved acting with coughs similarly
tucked up in bedlam
the fly makes it across

Rain on the roof, a squib of a shower, the pencil chop sticks
alternate points keeping the writer hewn close to the sharpener
Oh – where is this going, this errant verse
mattress sprung knuckles bouncing pencils crossed above
sprung in cotton, comfortable in bed
exhale what cotton what crisp comfort against the skin
a parable of a poet watching a fly traverse towards the cobweb
and exit stage left.

banded abdomen of a nematoceran fly with haltomeres
a dipteran cigar now rests on the sloping ceiling
in for the night as far from the light as is safe
knuckles spring thud in between the beat of the lines
writing is all in the head
what emerges on paper is just that, if it is let flow,
short words selected by texting
the little ways of saying shortly instead. Not a Mossie.

Longwinded maybe but longworded no
it is the style of the composition
that what you are used to allows
why don’t you write in Patois
and let us hear that voice
subsumed with explosive friccatives rupturing through your lips
It is hard to imagine the sound in a sweet carib voice
without the shortened syntax to go with the reading out loud.
The voice is so distinctive

it must have a metrical metre
to turn those ears around.
hark, listen to the phone conversation in the far room
drawing to an end in agreement over earlier daily rows
why does a fan of verse
worry how it will turn out
when all that matters is getting it written
and let others figure what it is about
writing a poem, some say,
this will do, hey

Number the page in the beginning
crosssed pencil slip in an extra s
excessm this metrical metre has
a caribbean-ness, composed for a salon of salubriousness
where comment is stiffled by literary politeness
while a few rauckous members scribble away, posting notices of their output.
The reader counter is addictive
maybe you have to read it twice
we are all inveterate readers no matter what it is about !

Oh what whimsical fantasy is going to emerge
from this session of scribing
I must post my Dunsany
a place in the county of Meath
a poem with a chilling ending of a civilisation
Where is the draft I have written
dropped carefully on the floor by the bed
pencils write vertically while biros are disastrous in bed

What do you do when you run out of paper,
to put the composition in the writers atellier
a quick raid from the printer, keeps us going ahead
The rhythm of the writing to keep everything going smoothly along
rushing down the page in a different way,
puts the ache in the arm rather than on the hand grip.

The sound of the paper is thinner,
now that I have reached the last page
There are opposite sides to be covered
if one needs to go on.

The sound of scribing is a tonic to the soul before sleep
let us type it in in the morning and let us see where we get
encouragement is unnecessary for one with a voice
but welcome when it is not given in jest
for what a poet needs is just some acknowledgement
a few readers smiles as you struggle along digesting this

[Vikram Seth’s novel ‘Golden Gate’ is masterclass in prose poetry]