Archives for posts with tag: birds

koson sparrow 4
How to Write a Villanelle
by Marjorie Maddox

To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that soars and swoops in seven different ways
then sings a song that you’ve already heard,

returning to its favorite branch to perch.
Become a sparrow—light, and quick, and gray—
to write a villanelle.  Think how the bird

salutes you every morning undeterred
from trilling what it always wants to say.
within its favorite song; the one you’ve heard

so many times you suddenly are stirred
to listen closer still, to find the way
to write a villanelle, just like a bird

that flits across your vision in a blur
and leaves the sound of beauty in its trail,
still singing songs that you’ve already heard.

Next time you want to fly away on words,
remember what we talked about this day.
To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that sings a song that you’ve already heard.

SOURCE: “How to Write a Villanelle” appears in Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards).

IMAGE: Sparrow on a Flowering Branch, circa 1930s, by Ohara Koson (1877-1945).

EDITOR’S NOTE:villanelle is a 19-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately at the end of each subsequent stanza until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines.

Marjorie Maddox May 2020 with Inside Out author photo copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); four children’s and YA books—including Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards),  A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry and I’m Feeling Blue, Too! Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry (assistant editor); and 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Forthcoming in 2021 is her book Begin with a Question (Paraclete Press), as well as her ekphrastic collaboration with photographer Karen Elias, Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts). For more information, please visit

PHOTO: The author with her book Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards).

licensed mehul agrawal
House Sparrows
by Kelley White

–after Mary Oliver

–for Annie, Janine, Frances, Kathleen & Linda

You do not have to be brave.
You do not have to come into work
when the disease flares
or chemotherapy
leaves you retching.
You only have to let the dear spirit of your
body heal
when it heals.
Tell me about your pain, yours, and I will listen
despite mine.
Meanwhile this life goes on.
Meanwhile the children laugh and the sweet bubbles of
their laugher
are singing across the ghetto
over abandoned houses and crack vials,
over the empty lots and projects.
Meanwhile the brown and gray sparrows, busy in the dull
gray sky
are building their nests.
I know you, I think of you living alone,
I praise your hope and dedication,
I watch you work like the sparrows, steady and
building and rebuilding your peace
in the anger of life.

Published in Philadelphia Poets, July 2008

PHOTO: Sparrow building a nest. Photo by Mehul Agrawal, used by permission. 

Kelley_CHHS_1989 copy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This older poem came to mind when I began reading the wonderful work in the PRIME MOVERS Series. Many of my co-workers, the mainstays of the urban neighborhood health center where I have worked for nearly three decades, are older women with underlying health conditions. (Actually, that group includes me.) Throughout the pandemic they have continued to arrive daily to serve their duties as the unsung workers in the health field—reception staff, medical record clerks, medical assistants, telephone operators—often needing to take several types of public transportation. Many are well past retirement age (two are in their eighties!) but are still the major wage earners in their families. They face anxious and challenging patients with few thanks. I hope I remember to respect and thank them.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This 1989 photograph shows a pregnant me (right) with one of my favorite medical assistants. We worked together from 1983 till about 1990 in an urban community health center. Remarkably, I still work with a medical assistant who was at the center several years before I joined, which is nearly 40 years ago. I spent 1983-2008 at a federally qualified health center in a tough part of Philadelphia then moved back to my home state, New Hampshire, to be near my mother in the last decade of her life, working at a rural FQHC from 2008-2018. I never thought I’d return to Philadelphia but after my mother’s death at age 91, I found myself with grandchildren in the city and returned to the original health center, finding an aging but still dedicated staff and now see many grandchildren of my original patients.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

PHOTO: The author with granddaughter Evelyn.

Roberts_front door
Even Now
by Jeannie E. Roberts

with distancing rules and stay-at-home orders —
finch, grackle, blue jay still thrive,

launch from branch, flit to feeder as crow lands
and wren awakes window, sways, swerves,

survives. Even now, with masks and safety gear
guidelines — mink, muskrat, otter still thrive,

glide atop pond, swim across water as frog
leaps and bass eludes snapper, sways, swerves,

survives. Even now, with mandates enforced
and protocols applied — art, beauty, luster

still thrive, weave atop walls, dance across
surface as sun streams and light dabs design,

sways, swerves, survives. Even now,
in uncertain times, with sweeping contagion —
care, courage, kindness still thrive.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In conjunction with the front door theme, I thought it timely to reference humanity’s coronavirus pandemic — how our natural world thrives, survives, how beauty still exists, how people pull together in times of uncertainty. Our front door is lovely, especially when evening light streams through its beveled glass panels — the patterns dance, feel buoyant, joyful. I try to be aware of my surroundings; there’s ever something beautiful to embrace, however small, fleeting. Like the cycle of life, my poem, an anaphora, uses the repetition of words and succession of lines to create a rhythmic, sonic effect.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts has authored six books, including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All (Finishing Line Press, 2013). In 2019, her second children’s book, Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children, was released by Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books. She is poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. When she’s not reading, writing, or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings. For more, visit her at

My Front Door
by Neil Creighton

Outside, the eastern rosellas come daily
to drink at the stone bird bath,
dipping and rising in a flash of color,
alighting in the leafy branches,
dropping to drink, dipping their crimson heads,
and then, swiftly leaving.
Sometimes black cockatoos
float slowly through the air,
landing to feed on banksia cones.
Sometimes a lone king parrot
briefly visits, flashing feathers
of luminous deep orange
and iridescent green.

Inside, caught in the front door’s
ripple of glass, they stay.
The eastern rosella sits on a branch,
always waiting to descend and drink.
A crimson rosella takes flight,
fanning his tail feathers of green and blue.
Another sits quietly, gifting us
exquisite crimson, yellow and blue,
whispering to us every day,
“Gaze on us. Let us remind you
of sun and sky, tangle of green,
joy of feather and flight
and the wonder of living things.”

Neil Creighton copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Neil Creighton is an Australian poet whose work as a teacher of English and Drama brought him into close contact with thousands of young lives, most happy and triumphant but too many tragically filled with neglect. It made him intensely aware of how opportunity is so unequally proportioned and his work often reflects strong interest in social justice. He has been widely published, both online and in hard copy. He is a contributing editor at Verse-Virtual,  an online poetry journal. His chapbook, Earth Music, was published by Praxis Magazine Online in 2020. Two other chaps, Loving Leah and Rock Dreaming have been selected for publication by Kelsay Books.

Russell - front door
Front Door Denizens
by Sarah Russell

The door itself is nondescript, a faded forest green, like others in the complex. Yesterday I hung our cherry blossom wreath on its hook, dancing pink blossoms against the dark panel. The remnants of our finches’ old nest⸺intricate grass lace and a bit of mud for glue⸺hide in the silk flowers. The finches come back every spring, and this morning, there they were, flitting from porch to maple tree, warbling a love song, as if they’d been waiting for their wreath, our door. While they’re in residence, we’ll put a note on the post asking folks to come round to the back.

old nest with new life
open mouths searching, peeping
daffodils in bloom

Russell, finch nest

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Haibun form seemed perfect for telling about the finch family who leases our front door and wreath every year. The above photo is of their eggs last spring.

Russell copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Russell’s poetry and fiction have been published in Kentucky Review, Red River Review, Misfit Magazine, Silver Birch Press, Rusty Truck, Third Wednesday, and other journals and anthologies. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her first poetry collection, I lost summer somewhere, was published in 2019 by Kelsay Books. A second collection, Today and Other Seasons, will be published by Kelsay this summer. She blogs at

The Falconer
by Sylvia Cavanaugh

     After Gerard Manly Hopkins

I refuse to be ground-bound like some king
rooted by weight of castle stone, riding
some cartographer’s stilted latitude, striding
through illusion. I will take wing,
soar as if on skyward wooden swing,
arm outstretched; my eyesight upward gliding.

There will be no more malevolent hiding
of small-drone military-industrial things.
My falcon will deliver them broken, here.
A million aluminum eyes, titanium lies; a billion,
spy flies, shattered at my feet. I, Luddite Chevalier,
forge only the shimmering sheen of sillion.

O, the rip and tear of beak and talon, dear;
and my closed fist, firm wrist, against imperial gates vermillion.

PHOTO: “Evening Hunter” by Buddy Mays. Prints available at (A falconer holds her red-tailed hawk as the full moon sets over the red mud of John Day Fossil Beds in central Oregon.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have always loved the poem, “The Windhover,” by Gerard Manly Hopkins. My mother used to recite the poem to me when I was a child. Hopkins was a nineteenth century poet who pioneered the use of “sprung rhyme.” I recently read H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, and was quite captivated by her description of training a goshawk. It made me want to become a falconer. Finally, I read in the news, recently, that trained eagles are being used to capture and destroy small drones. The technique used in writing the poem is called “The Golden Shovel.” The final word in each line in my poem is the exact same ending word as in “Windhover.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Originally from Pennsylvania, Sylvia Cavanaugh has an M.S. in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin. She currently teaches high school African and Asian cultural studies. She is the faculty advisor for break dancers and poets. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems have appeared in An Arial Anthology, Gyroscope review, The Journal of Creative Geography, Midwest Prairie Review, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Verse Wisconsin,and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor for Verse-Virtual, and a member of the board of the Council for Wisconsin Writers. Her chapbook, Staring Through My Eyes, is available from Finishing Line Press.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Striking the pose in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.


Dream Revamped
by Munia Khan

I was named after a bird —
a dead pet of my loving, late father
I wished to meet its tiny feathered body
so lifeless in the cage
(but unfortunately, after a few days I was born)

Perhaps a reincarnation I wanted
as I desired to fly in my mind
in quest of my own soul-bird,
all severed, but unlike human
whose every dream
would be the beginning of a new life
with or without a name…

but that remained a pipe dream

Now, in the course of time,
I’ve become a cold blooded toad —
‘Bufo melanostictus’
as the alleged scientific world labeled me
I love to live double lives,
being a nocturnal amphibian.
Hiding myself in a dark lowland area
I love to make friends with
the dirty-pond-inhabitants hydras:
my faithful neighbours!

I’m proud of my pale, yellow-brown colour pattern,
marked boldly with dark, reddish brown streaks and spots —
a constant reminder of
how fortunate I am,
to be able to escape from
the human dominated, so-called ‘clean earth’

I’ve recently buried my avian dreams
in the dingy slum near my abode
Nature, at present,
is a heaven of luxury for me
where I love to make love
to my water-dependent breeding,
allowing the lunar cycle to dictate my ovulation
(Yes, just before or after a full moon occurs)

I dream to lay a long string of black eggs
And I trust, in time my offspring
will begin to reign over humanity
through our sweet sojourn, the vernal pool —
A peaceful place
far away from the manmade world!

IMAGE: “Blue Bird” by Sergei Solomko (1867-1928).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I cannot escape from the ‘escapist’ in me who really inspired this poem. We, being proud human, have failed to heal this tyrannical world filled with oppression. My imagination strongly believes, perhaps, an innocent toad could help when everyone fails…to make this world a perfect place to live in. What if I become that cold blooded toad…?


Munia Khan
 was born on a spring night of 15th March in the year 1981. Her poetry is the reflection of her own life experience. She is the author of two poetry collections — Beyond the Vernal Mind, published in 2012 and To Evince the Blue, published in 2014 by Xlibris Corporation, USA. Her poems have appeared in several anthologies. Her works have been translated into various languages: Japanese, Romanian, Urdu, Spanish, Bengali, Irish, and so on. She is a member in The Poetry Society, UK and also a founding member of Poets & Artists For A Different World Movement. Visit her at

On Becoming Birds
by Elaine Mintzer

See how thin
      our old bones are,

long batons of ulnae,

tibias sharp
      and delicate.

See how the wings
      of our hips

turn to lace,

to release us from the gravity
      of floor and earth.

See how the loved ones
      anchor us in beds with rails,

tie us with threads
      of air and seawater.

Stay, they say,

even as we prepare
      to touch the clouds,

to break free.

IMAGE: “A Black Bird With Snow-Covered Red Hills” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1946).

PHOTO: The author in the backyard, 1954.

Version 2 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elaine Mintzer has a BA from UCLA in Creative Writing and an MS in Education from USC. She has written poetry for Ballet Randolph in Miami Beach, has been published in print journals and online, and was anthologized in 13 Los Angeles Poets. Elaine’s first collection, Natural Selections, was published by Bombshelter Press in 2005.

by j.lewis

books portrayed
a thousand different birds
color-plumed beyond imagination
yet new mexico
would show me only two

feathered icons of a lonely world
seen through childish eyes

every day was presaged
     by dark depression
       as though poe’s raven
       had sadly adopted me
       sorry his first victim
       had slipped the noose of reality
     or by the common
       cheerful smallness
       that made chickadee and me
       twins of different species

so it was then
when my days were made
of two colors only
     as the crow flies
     as small birds pecking
     in the snow
     for seeds of happiness

new mexico
did not know

PHOTOGRAPH: “The Chickadee,” age 12.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Not until I was an adult, trained as a registered nurse, did I begin to realize that I had suffered from depression as a child. During my childhood, the notion that children could have mental illness was considered silly, except in extreme cases, so there was never any thought given to my behavior, other than the exasperation of parents who already had too much to deal with. Looking back to that time of my life, it is clear that I had perceived it as being very bleak. My poem “birds” uses the darkness of a raven and the dull coloring of a chickadee to illustrate those feelings. I am fortunate that the depression didn’t stay with me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: j.lewis is an internationally published poet, musician, and nurse practitioner. His poetry and music reflect the complexity of human interactions, sometimes drawing inspiration from his experience in healthcare. When he is not otherwise occupied, he is often on a kayak, exploring and photographing the waterways near his home in California.

Cathy on bike
All day by the mirror—
by Cathy McArthur

my parakeet looks at himself
his tail waving
two small feathers on his wing.

I draw us while he sings,
a white and yellow hat
on my head.

this simple happiness.

His beak is a fine comb
teasing, dressing me up
for dancing,

I laugh at my tangled hair,
by the table in the sunny kitchen,
holding crayons, paper.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age 11 in Woodside, New York.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The above poem is part of an early childhood memory. As a child, my home was always filled with family pets, and they seemed to be a part of my creative life. I couldn’t locate an old photo of my parakeet, Melody, with me in that kitchen.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cathy McArthur’s (aka Cathy Palermo’s) work recently appeared in Barrow Street and is forthcoming in Blueline. She has also published in the Bellevue Literary Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Hanging Loose, Blue Fifth Review, Gargoyle, Lumina, Jacket, WSQ, and others. She teaches creative writing and composition at The City College of New York.