Nov 3, 2010

Auden's "Unknown Citizen." About Celebrity.

People often ask why I don’t run for President. I’d offer that I’m Auden’s Unknown Citizen, but it wouldn't help. Nobody reads poetry.

The Unknown Citizen- - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More

I try to explain I’m not a Cardinal, everybody’s Mr. Wonderful, happy in the limelight

(which can give you skin cancer of the soul).

And I’m certainly not the even flashier, big and brassy Blue Jay, with his tedious crimes and misdemeanors.

Instead, I identify with Democrat birds, the darkk-eyed junco, for example, charcoal and cream, an unobtrusive, subtle guy who gobbles almost anything, from the feeder or the ground. Demanding some gilded platter would be presumptuous, would say he thinks he is somebody, wants to be the CEO. No, he's more an individual than sparrows are, but he's just folks.

If you really want to nail me, try the professor in a bowtie--I see a bowtie there, don't you? Old Nuthatch is convinced that his black head and bright white cheek are yin and yang; they distinguish him from flying chunks of gravel, highlight him as much as he cares to be singled out. Ditto the way he sometimes struts and bobs down the tree, more than a little lost, or merely absent-minded. Maybe it's a cry for attention, but it's not some gaudy celebration of self, as if he thinks he is somebody. He's still our kind of people. And in the right light, he’d argue, his back is a fetching kind of slate or downright blue, not dun grey. But it has to be the right light. And the right observer.



Jean Spitzer said...

It's a nuthatch! Thanks. I've seen this guy--or a close relative--in my yard. He's very dapper.

Ken Mac said...

nice shots. Thank you for your recent comments re my mom's passing. Heartfelt thanks and appreciation, very sweet of you.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I love this poem for the lines and lines of description. And rhyme. And the picture it paints, not in the citizen's physical structure, but in his life's structure. Auden's citizen doesn't tiptoe, but he doesn't leave a footprint, either. So many birds/humans, so few footprints.

You'd make a great nuthatch. I like your observation of its downward strut, absentmindedly.
I'm so there! No, really, I wish I were, instead of here in this RED state...

Banjo52 said...

Ken, welcome back. Hope you're doing OK.

Jean, dapper. I like that.

"So many birds/humans, so few footprints." Nice sentence, Brenda!

The poem's a touch didactic, but I've always liked it, esp. the final couplet.

Sounds as if you're making the very best of your red state.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Red states can be a very sad place to be BLUE.

Kitty said...

ha, yes, these birds have personalities.

I count myself as one of the sparrows, myself. I love how they congregate in the summer and take dust baths, fluffing themselves very round, with their mouths open.

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, I can't shake my nostalgia for Ohio, so I feel your pain, though not many states are as red as AZ.

Kitty, I'm glad sparrows have a fan. I've warmed to them in spite of their numbers and commonness. It’s almost all house sparrows here--I could get real attached to white-crowned or white-throated sparrows, but they don't show up often.

In case you’ve got time to spare, I’ll mention that I posted a sappy but accurate little piece about them and cardinals here on Jul 15, 2009.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Thought that poem was going to end in some serial killer revelation. You know, when they discover the bodies in the back yard and the neighbor says "but he seemed like such a nice guy, mowed his lawn on Sundays"

don't be a wren

be a parrot, annoying, persistent and colorful; plus they live longer

Banjo52 said...

PA, I hope you're not onto something. We'd almost all be guilty.

P.S. I have never worn a (literal) bow tie. Or spats.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

of hiding dead people in our yard or being obnoxious or green or long in the tooth??

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