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Thursday, December 01, 2005


by Patricia Ranzoni

For young Jen Tibbetts whose poem for the grief she knows old hippies are feeling (from how sorrowfully things in the world are going) caused us to cry with her at Scoops along the Poetry Walk in Belfast.

It didn’t exactly make the
Bangor Daily headlines that day (November first, 2005) tucked under Spotlight on page 3 below Wildlife officials kill 9 wolves in Montana, Lesbian minister defrocked by council, Central Americans in shelters after [hurricane] Beta, and Haitian police free 3 [kidnapped] American children; and after Bird flu discovered in Canadian ducks, 2 more moons spotted at Pluto by Hubble, right above ads for Weber Mortgages and Van Syckle cars.

I’d’ve given it top billing instead of
Bush nominates Alito to Supreme Court post. At least below that, where it shouts (in even bolder letters because local, no doubt, Bangor ready for debut of slots for the tacky Hollywood theme scene they’d rather have up there than our own honest-to-God Indians’ games.

If you ask me, news the mice sing is about the only possible news able to counter the lower left account,
Seven U.S. troops killed in Iraq, raising the toll for October to more than 90, the deadliest month for our country (not to mention the Iraqis) since January with its map. Anchor the page against this year’s tragedies. Sure, 8.9 M environmental bond on ballot dealing with Maine’s immediate needs requires reading and Judge frees woman suspected of human trafficking attempt about girls smuggled through Canada forced into prostitution here....(tears.......).

But did you see it?
Mating songs detected in squeaks of mice? Yes! How that neurobiologist (bless his heart) showed the ultrasonic chirps of male mice to be songs, admitting them with whales, bats, insects and birds to the select category of animals that sing. This helps, doesn’t it, Jen?

Female pheromones trigger it, leading the study’s author, Timothy Holy...(
Holy...) to suspect the songs evolved to help mice find mates. And what aging homesteader wouldn’t marvel that the results were published on something they never could have conceived called online in Public Library of Science Biology? Or that with the strict definitions for the rhythms and melodic motifs required for animal song, mice could qualify? Listening, Jeff Podos, behavioral ecologist, noted in an e-mail (what back-to-the-lander could have shunned), “I agree they are complex enough to be called songs. Very cool!” Hear that, Jen? Very cool.

Inducing the crooning with female urine, males sniffed, then tasted, and in close to 30 seconds began chirping. What matter the chirps are eight octaves above a piano’s Middle C--about two too high for us to discern? Doesn’t it nevertheless transform
everything, knowing mice sing, and what we might also be missing that your generation, Jen, weeping old tears again, will, some far day, be astonished to learn? Holy (holy, holy, Lord God Almighty) makes the songs audible by shifting the pitch with software or slowing down the playback like spinning a 45 rpm at 33. In an interview, in denim and flannel (catch that, Jen?), Holy jumped to his computer to play disc jockey. One song revealed a mournful warbling like a whale. Another, more birdlike, with glissandos, grace notes, and fluted trills. Okay, I won’t say that day’s editorial should have been devoted to this, rather than outlawing torture, or that this revelation should have even taken the place of Danby’s cartoon showing Bush bubble-speaking, “It’s less about the court losing a swing vote than Cheney gaining a duck hunting partner.”

But I’d’ve put it before the opinion for
A New Tourism Model courting well-heeled vs. backpacking visitors (got that, you hippies and yuppies?), a high-value, low-volume strategy at the same time confirming most Mainer’s can’t afford luxury vacations but that’s no reason to hold back the state’s biggest revenue-bringing industry. Seems we lag behind the national average in enticing visitors with annual incomes over 75 thou'and this paper’s view is we ought to consider a change, saying (coincidentally) this would return Maine to the turn-of-the-century model of well-off visitors spending long periods in the state at all-inclusive resorts. “All inclusive....”, you hear? Think the mice know that tune? Have Been There, Done That in their repertoire too?

Nor would I (nor, I know, would you, Jen) begrudge Rosa her due-in-full column inches, being another unbelievable voice higher than most could perceive in the old (just-yesterday) days.

amen! for space given Leubsdorf’s center piece, Rove still master of strategy. No Mr. Holy in flannel and jeans, that one, hey, Jen? But a jockey nevertheless with his spin spin spin, backwards, forward, every speed his trackable holier-than-thou droppings need need need to win win win with ways learned from that young mouse in training to be a rat not to slander rats, likening them to what’s infesting our beloved land, and the quite cute wharf ones we saw at low tide reaching on hind legs to suck and chew the living sweet meat of barnacles encrusting the pilings of Stonington’s piers. I tell you, Jen, I’d sooner sleep in a room over them, innocent, than walls near what’s gnawing away the very foundations of our Nation’s Home, causing disgust throughout the world.

But now, dear, we’ve this news to which we can cling, needing only to concentrate our dreams.
Shhhhhhh......... Right here, this very grain of time, nestled amongst us in chinks of fibers and shredded papers (who knows--poems? The Ellsworth American?), maybe, after spreading word (so to speak) of the new sack of barley in the pantry, tiny mouths are showing us how to carol above it all for life over death. So that whenever grief overpowers, and no protest or poem changes one single thing, we need only conjure The Jackson Laboratory Tabernacle Choir and news the mice sing!

Patricia Smith Ranzoni was born upriver in 1940 in Lincoln, Maine to a Canadian-American woodcutter and farm girl from offneck Castine, both descended from European settlers to Indian territory in what became Massachusetts then Maine, their roots mixing in relation with Native Americans and First Canadians. For work at the papermill when her father returned from WWII, her family relocated to Bucksport where she writes from one of the outback subsistence farms of her youth which her husband and children helped keep in the family. She worked her way through graduate degrees at UM, Orono, in education and counseling, in which she practiced as long as she could, but has had no formal instruction in poetry, being deeply folk schooled in the traditions of her people. Her poems have been published across the United States and abroad and collected by Puckerbrush Press (Claiming, 1995 and Settling, 2000) and Sheltering Pines Press (ONLY HUMAN, Poems From the Atlantic Flyway, 2005).