Archives for category: birds

by Robert Penn Warren

From plane of light to plane, wings dipping through
Geometries and orchids that the sunset builds,
Out of the peak’s black angularity of shadow, riding
The last tumultuous avalanche of
Light above pines and the guttural gorge,
The hawk comes.
His wing
Scythes down another day, his motion
Is that of the honed steel-edge, we hear
The crashless fall of stalks of Time.

The head of each stalk is heavy with the gold of our error.

Look! Look! he is climbing the last light
Who knows neither Time nor error, and under
Whose eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings
Into shadow.

Long now,
The last thrush is still, the last bat
Now cruises in his sharp hieroglyphics. His wisdom
Is ancient, too, and immense. The star
Is steady, like Plato, over the mountain.

If there were no wind we might, we think, hear
The earth grind on its axis, or history
Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.

PHOTO: “Evening Hawk” by Tony Hisgett


April 24, 2014 marks the 109th anniversary of the birth of multi-hyphenate Robert Penn Warren — a poet-novelist-essayist-editor-critic — the only person to win a Pulitzer Prize for both fiction and poetry, and likely the most decorated American author of all time.

Warren (1905-1989) received the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for his novel All the King’s Men and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1958 and 1979. From 1944-1945, Warren served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. His other honors and awards include Presidential Medal of Freedom (1980), MacArthur Fellowship (1981), designation as first U.S. Poet Laureate (1986), and National Medal of Arts (1987).

PHOTO: Robert Penn Warren working on the revisions of a book in a barn near his home (April 1956 by Leonard McCombe, Time/Life, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED).

Let’s celebrate this remarkable writer’s birthday with one of his most beautiful poems.

by Robert Penn Warren

Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood
By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard
The great geese hoot northward.

I could not see them, there being no moon
And the stars sparse. I heard them.

I did not know what was happening in my heart.

It was the season before the elderberry blooms,
Therefore they were going north.

The sound was passing northward.

by Wallace Stevens

At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.

He knew that he heard it,
A bird’s cry at daylight or before,
In the early March wind

The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow . . .
It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep’s faded papier mâché . . .
The sun was coming from outside.

That scrawny cry—it was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

SOURCE: “Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself” appears in The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Alfred A. Knopf, 1954).

IMAGE: Sunrise on the roof top” by Nomad Art and Design. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wallace Stevens (1879–1955) was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, educated at Harvard and then New York Law School, and spent most of his life working as an executive for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his Collected Poems in 1955. (SOURCE:

by Shel Silverstein

Birds are flyin’ south for winter.
Here’s the Weird-Bird headin’ north,
Wings a-flappin’, beak a-chatterin’,
Cold head bobbin’ back ‘n’ forth.
He says, “It’s not that I like ice
Or freezin’ winds and snowy ground.
It’s just sometimes it’s kind of nice
To be the only bird in town.”
“Weird-Bird” appears in Shel Silverstein‘s collection Falling Up.

by Diana García

He asked me       if I had a choice
what kind of bird
would I choose to be.
I know what he thought I’d say
since he tried to        end
my sentences half the time
anyway. Something exotic
he thought. He thought
maybe macaw.
That would fit
all loudmouthed
and primary colored
he would think.
(He thinks too much
I always thought.)…
I think
green heron.
You ask why?
That hunched look
wings tucked to neck
waiting        waiting
in the sun
on a wide slab of rock
alongside a slow river
like some old man
up from a bad night’s dream
where he’s seen his coffin
and you say to him
Have a nice day
and he says        Make me
“On the First Day She Made Birds” appears in Diana García’s collection When Living Was a Labor Camp (University of Arizona Press, 2000). Read the poem in its entirety at

Photo: Green heron


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Diana García was born in the San Joaquin Valley, in a migrant farm labor camp owned by the California Packing Corporation. She earned a BA in English with a creative writing emphasis and an MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. She is the author of the poetry collection When Living Was a Labor Camp (2000), which won the 2001 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. García is the director of the Creative Writing and Social Action Program at California State University at Monterey Bay.

by Mark Sanders

I call my wife outdoors to have her listen,
to turn her ears upward, beyond the cloud-veiled
sky where the moon dances thin light,
to tell her, “Don’t hear the cars on the freeway—
it’s not the truck-rumble. It is and is not
the sirens.” She stands there, on deck
a rocking boat, wanting to please the captain
who would have her hear the inaudible.
Her eyes, so blue the day sky is envious,
fix blackly on me, her mouth poised on question
like a stone. But, she hears, after all.
                                                           January on the Gulf,  
warm wind washing over us, 
we stand chilled in the winter of those voices.
“The Cranes, Texas, January” appears in Mark Sanders’ collection Conditions of Grace: New and Selected Poems (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011).

PHOTO: A whooping crane near Corpus Christi, Texas.

By Nancy McCleery

The backyard is one white sheet
Where we read in the bird tracks
The songs we hear. Delicate
Sparrow, heavier cardinal,
Filigree threads of chickadee.
And wing patterns where one flew
Low, then up and away, gone
To the woods but calling out
Clearly its bright epigrams.
More snow promised for tonight.
The postal van is stalled
In the road again, the mail
Will be late and any good news
Will reach us by hand.
“December Notes” appears in Nancy McCleery‘s collection  Girl Talk (The Backwaters Press, 2002).

Photo: “Bird tracks in the snow” by Willie, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

by Henry Carlile

Not to conform to any other color
is the secret of being colorful.
He shocks us when he flies
like a red verb over the snow.
He sifts through the blue evenings
to his roost.
He is turning purple.
Soon he’ll be black.
In the bar’s dark I think of him.
There are no cardinals here.
Only a woman in a red dress.
“The Cardinal” appears in Henry Carlile’s collection Running Lights by Henry Carlile (Dragon Gate, 1981).

Photo: Wendy Kavener, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This photo was a winner in the 2004 National Wildlife Photo Contest.

 by Gary Snyder

Six A.M.,
Sat down on excavation gravel
by juniper and desert S.P. tracks
interstate 80 not far off
between trucks
Coyotes—maybe three
howling and yapping from a rise.
Magpie on a bough
Tipped his head and said,
“Here in the mind, brother
Turquoise blue.
I wouldn’t fool you.
Smell the breeze
It came through all the trees
No need to fear
What’s ahead
Snow up on the hills west
Will be there every year
be at rest.
A feather on the ground–
The wind sound—
Here in the Mind, Brother,
Turquoise Blue”

Photo: “Magpie in the Sky,” shot with pinhole camera by Gwen Deanne, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

“Magpie’s Song” by Gary Snyder is included in BRIGHT WINGS: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds, Edited by Billy Collins with Paintings by David Allen Sibley. This inspiring book is available at Highly recommended!

“Rarely has poetry and art been so deftly partnered….A truly impressive anthology.” THE MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW


by Jack Kerouac

Birds singing
in the dark
rainy dawn.

Photo: J. Gregory Barton, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED