An Abandoned Resort
At last, a branch to stand on. Mother meant it when she said the Wide
Plain had an apt name. Nor was she wrong when she said, Let your
instinct guide you: though you could be wrong, a million bird years can’t.
I certainly couldn’t have found this tree by myself, and here I am, the
only bird on the only tree on the Wide Plain. Heritage, heritage, to be so
small and have so much. I guess it’s funny of me to like my heritage
when I don’t like birds. Oh well, I am as alone as I wished to be and can
sleep until the sun, without so much as an announcing chirrup, silently
rises. So I’ll say good-night to myself and tuck my head under my wing.
If we dance a little in the night wind, please don’t think we mean to be
I’m afraid we startled you, I felt your claws clench. Could you relax them?
No birds have passed this way in some centuries, and I’m terribly unused
to those things most trees I imagine take for granted.
We are many. Please excuse us if we don’t introduce ourselves individually.
This won’t make you think me a very nice bird, but I shall say what
comes first to mind. If I were you, I would have thought it very witty and
cute to let me chatter, sleep and fly away without ever knowing I could
have talked and been talked to.
If you wish, I’ll keep quiet.
If the wind doesn’t blow, we won’t dance. It often doesn’t.
Silence between strangers? Sounds ominous, looks bad. I’m sorry what I
said was rude. You see, I came here for the quiet. I’m not like other birds.
There are birds and birds. I have reason to think that what I and my children
sprang from was dropped here by a bird. One, perhaps, like yourself,
somewhat different from the others.
We thought we were wind born. This is strange news.
How can that be? His instinct could not have guided him to you, the only
tree on Wide Plain, before you were here, could it?
I don’t know. I wasn’t here. Perhaps he thought, “Here, a tree is called for.
I will plant one.”
No, birds don’t think like that. We fly and nest in the world as we find it.
If we couldn’t fly, I suppose we might be less content with it.
Content with what?
How different we are, us from each other, you from us, our tree from you.
Won’t you tell us about yourself? How does it happen you are—I take it,
by choice—a lone flyer?
I don’t usually talk about myself, but then, I don’t usually talk. You see, I
can’t bear the underscoring that goes on in social life. No matter what one
does with a group, there is something to say, and it never goes unsaid. We
would all fly off in a flock, and someone would say, “There is safety in
numbers.” Our flock would alight in a tree, and someone would say,
“Here is a good tree to spend the night.” Everyone knew that when the sky turned gray and the wind cold we would fly south, and at the first
tepid gust they would be knocking themselves off the branches shouting,
“The north wind doth blow and we shall have snow!” I couldn’t even eat
breakfast without someone saying, “The early bird catches the worm.”
And I assure you, it made no difference how late I ate.
JAMES SCHUYLER (1923–1991) recently had his Selected Poems reissued by
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, with an introduction by John Ashbery. Nathan Kernan,
who edited his Diaries, is currently working on Schuyler’s biography. The present
playlet was written circa 1953, and submitted to Julien Beck at The Living
Theater; it was never performed.
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Also by James Schuyler
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