Tuesday, November 13, 2007

They Have Never Been Touched by Men

Back in the early 70's, when I was living in Berkeley, an oil tanker crashed in The Bay, spilling oil everywhere. The same haunted photos of oil-caked birds appeared in the papers and the same rush to pass the buck ensued at Exxon (owner of the tanker)and throughout various government agencies. I joined a group of concerned bird lovers on the beaches north of the GG bridge. We had procedures, we reminded each other of steps to take...but most of the birds we were able to reach were terrified and in shock. Some died in our hands covered with oil; a few struggled off to an uncertain future.

Eventually, the question became: what do we do with the dead birds? Somebody came up with the idea of boxing them up and mailing them to Exxon.

I went home and wrote this poem, which appeared later that week in the Berkeley Barb, an "alternative" newspaper:

THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN TOUCHED BY MEN

be careful
most of them will die and
birds aren't used to dying like this
easy...put a rubber-band around the beak
they might try to attack you
they don't realize you're trying to
help