BY SHERRY MOSSAFER RIND
The first invention of Musicke might seeme by the hearing of this beast, to have the first principles of that Science, rather then by any other thing in the World.
– Gonzalo De Oviedo, 1526
Its four limbs cannot carry it on earth
but drag the body with birdlike claws,
belly weaving a trail in the dust.
Too slow for sport, with a mouth too small to bite,
it does not defend itself from capture
or bring any profit known to man.
It cannot be hurried, can never be hurried
by threats or sticks, even when it sees a tree
where its one desire is to climb
with long arms and claws that reach
as if through honey to the highest branch
where it is lost in quietude
among leaves and birds. No one has seen it eat
anything but air, as it turns its face to the wind,
a round child’s face with a dark stroke across each eye
painted carelessly, an animal half-formed, a friend of darkness,
quiet by day but singing at night, six notes up the scale and down
as a man may sing do, re, mi, fa, sol, la
this creature calls ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah in perfect pitch
composing the first music of this New World and all the marvels in it.