Archives for posts with tag: birds

bird Kunihide Matsumoto copy
Waiting for the Doves
by Laurel Benjamin

I am still waiting for the doves
Everything else returned
Train rattling the tracks
White crown sparrows molting.

Everything else returned
Even the wind remembered
White crown sparrows molting.
We wondered what happened, drinking our tea

And even the wind remembered
Guatemalan cloth on wood table,
We wondered what happened, drinking our tea.
The roof made no remarks,

Guatemalan cloth on the wood table.
Out the picture window a woman walked past.
The roof made no remarks,
Did not swing its arms.

Out the picture window a woman walked past.
The town became a silhouette
Did not swing its arms
Mouth masked but not silenced.

And the town became a silhouette—
Until construction workers resumed
Mouths masked but not silenced
Stacks of two by fours littering driveways.

Until construction workers resumed
And the grocer’s inventory changed overnight
Stacks of two by fours littering driveways
Bottled up, now exploding.

And the grocer’s inventory changed overnight.
We did not cease fighting, name calling
Bottled up, now exploding
An army, sent out

We did not cease fighting, name calling
Could not suspend hostility
An army, sent out
Protestors packed into a van

Could not suspend hostility
Did not carry white flags
Protestors packed into a van
Did not demand peace

Did not carry white flags
Instead saying to the police
Did not demand peace
Leave Black men alone

Instead saying to the police
Past steam trains, gas lamps, expanded empires
Leave Black men alone.
We should have been ready

Medieval cobblestones more firm
In our minds than ever
And I am still waiting for the doves.

PAINTING: Bird by Kunihide Matsumoto.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My creative process and experience with this material: Dovetail (no pun) pandemic with protests and the experience of what’s amplified versus what’s missing, both aurally and emotionally. And then there’s everyday life, which for some us still goes on.

Laurel B

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurel Benjamin lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women’s Poetry, California Quarterly, The Midway Review, MacQueens Quinterly, Wild Roof Journal, Silver Birch Press, Poetry and Places, WordFest Anthology, Global Quarantine Museum Pendemics issue, including honorable mention in the Oregon Poetry Association’s Poetry Contest, Sunspot Literary Journal’s long list, among others. She is affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers. More of her work can be found at thebadgerpress.blogspot.com.

1998.122_PS1
Like the Scream of the Rising Moon
by Jonathan Yungkans

after John Ashbery

I am still waiting for the gloaming to rip like a fabric bolt
even before it finishes unrolling from a pair
of owls slashing it top to bottom—
shrieks sharper than talons, bodies blurred
into long streaks between buildings, leaving not a whoosh

or other sound betraying pure force that almost scalped me
just going close overhead one night. A long
time after that, nothing. The other
night they were back, and I felt ice thicken
beneath my skin—the terror of unmistakable suddenness—

invisible in a sky of colors pooling together, hemorrhaging
from beak and speed. Safe under the porch
roof in waiting’s stillness, watched
with a friend who thought me crazy for fear
of a bird. We’d gazed at hawks spiraling, heard eagles keen,

and when she saw the owls, her breath froze inside her chest,
observing their swift, surgical precision.
The neighbor’s cat was nowhere.
Waiting, still, to catch sight of it padding
near the pomegranate tree. As if it will. As if night were still.

IMAGE: The Enchanted Owl by Kenojuak Ashevak (stone cut on paper, 1960). (Collection of The Brooklyn Museum of Art, © Kenojuak Ashevak, courtesy of Dorset Fine Arts)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Living near Turnbull Canyon in Whittier, California, we get a tremendous amount of wildlife passing through. Hawks and coyotes are a semi-regular occurrence. Golden Eagles have also flown past and we have a large population of ravens. The owls are less frequent and more frightening. Have one fly past your head and you’ll be feeling your scalp with your hand for days afterwards to make sure it is still intact. They are tremendously powerful fliers and their screech just before they take flight is bloodcurdling.

yungkans_author_pic

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who earned an MFA from California State University, Long Beach while working as an in-home health-care provider, an occupation he still practices. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published in 2021 by Tebor Bach.

hawk-1946
Poem Incorporating a Line from Ha Jin
by Barbara Crary

And I am still waiting for grief
to overwhelm me or perhaps
to disappear like the gray mass
of snow on our neighbor’s side-
walk, snow in the pine tree’s shade,
no longer fresh and white.

The red-tail sits on the barren branch
he favored last year and the year
before when he screeched for hours
seeking a mate who would brood
on the nest for weeks, waiting
for their hatchlings to appear.

Red-tails watch over their young,
until the fledglings learn to soar,
despite their inept first attempts.
In a week or two, they depart for good.
After all her vigilance, does the she-
hawk stay to mourn the empty nest?

As I sit and watch the hawk, I think of
pandemic’s early days when we planned
a hundred things to do — there were,
heaven help us, lists on the internet —
no, I did not learn calligraphy or how to
juggle, not exactly anyway. But

I have learned to be still, to watch and to wait
for whatever grief comes my way next —
a slow growing cancer caught too late;
the stillbirth of a much-wanted baby girl;
a sudden suicide (the rowboat empty
on the half frozen lake).

Sometimes I remember that we used to
like talking about grief when it was a
hypothetical, a distant abstraction and not
the ache of emptiness, an unseen clump of
wayward cells, or a barren branch
where a nest used to be.

PAINTING: Hawk by Xu Beihong (1946).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As I was thinking of how to respond to this prompt, I came across a poem by Ha Jin, “Ways of Talking.” The first line, “We used to like talking about grief,” really resonated with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and kept incorporating it again and again into my poetry practice. I decided to use it here because I know I am still waiting for that full weight of pandemic-related grief to appear whether I choose to talk about it or not.

crary1 (1)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Crary worked for thirty years as a school psychologist in southeastern Pennsylvania and  began writing poetry after her retirement. She has participated in writing courses through the University of Iowa International Writing Program and was a contributing poet to Whitmanthology: On Loss and Grief, as well as to Silver Birch Press. She especially enjoys writing found poetry and participated in thepoeming during April 2021, using Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs as a source text.

iron trybex licensed
I Am Still Waiting for Spring
—a villanelle
by Jeannie E. Roberts

I am still waiting for spring on the lake.
Lesser scaup lands near merganser and loon.
Open water invites migration breaks.

Frozenness thaws into lunarlike shapes.
Surface reflections resemble the moon.
I am still waiting for spring on the lake.

Ruddy ducks dip and dabble with drakes.
Pelicans float as if primal pontoons.
Open water invites migration breaks.

Horned grebes trill to attract likely mates.
Geese honk alongside a cover of coots.
I am still waiting for spring on the lake.

Buffleheads shine like the icing on cake.
Mallards illumine in plumage platoon.
Open water invites migration breaks.

April arrives to dissolve winter’s weight.
Birds nod in respite on warm afternoons.
I am still waiting for spring on the lake.
Open water invites migration breaks.

PHOTO: Duck in a mystic morning light by Iron Trybex, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am still waiting for spring! Aren’t we all after this long, unusual winter? Living near a lake, I feel lucky to be able to experience the spring migration. We’ve already seen a few lake gulls. In 2018, our first year on Lake Wissota, I created a list of waterfowl arrival times. Though it varies, typically, the loon, mallard, osprey, bufflehead, pelican, blue-winged teal, lesser scaup, and American coot arrive in the third and fourth weeks of April. May brings the horned grebe, greater scaup, ruddy duck, hooded merganser, Northern shoveler, and others. They rest on the open water for a few days and then continue on their way; however, the osprey stay and return to their nearby nest, and geese are a year-round fixture. Also, depending on the snow level, the air temperature, and, of course, the amount of sunshine we receive, the lake ice melts between the end of March and the end of April. Lastly, I’ve been on a villanelle roll, so this poem follows that form. For more, here’s a link to the rules and history of the villanelle: Villanelle | Academy of American Poets.

Roberts1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts lives in an inspiring setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where she writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. She’s authored four poetry collections and two children’s books. As If Labyrinth – Pandemic Inspired Poems is forthcoming in May 2021 from Kelsay Books. She’s listed in Poets & Writers and is poetry reader and editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. To learn more, visit jrcreative.biz and Jeannie E. Roberts | Poets & Writers (pw.org).

flying gull espen sundve
How to learn to fly
by Mathias Jansson

Throw yourself to the ground
and miss
Create an anti-gravity space
in your backyard
Transplant a pair of wings
from a pterosaur
Be born by parents
that are birds and can fly
Study for a year
and take a flight certificate
Or take the hard way
close your eyes and use your imagination.

PHOTO: Escaping from Alcatraz by Espen Sundve, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I started to think what I wanted to learn. And I wanted to learn to how to fly, but biological humans cannot fly by their own, so the task is impossible. The poem is about an impossible dream, but even if we cannot fly we can use our imagination to work around the problem and find new solutions to problems that seems impossible and against our natural boundaries.

me2021 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mathias Jansson is a Swedish art critic and poet. He has contributed with poetry to different magazines and anthologies as Maintenant 8, 10 & 11: A Journal of Contemporary Dada. He has contributed to anthologies from Silver Birch Press and other publishers. Visit him at  mathiasjansson72.blogspot.se. 

lost parrot nancy l. stockdale
Morning Ritual
by Jonathan Yungkans

Open the front door at six a.m. See if the dead still stir. They never keep to a regular schedule.

Swallow hard to move sinus pain from skull. Keep swallowing. Eventually, it might work.

Walk into bathroom. Splash face and back of neck with cold water. Whatever you do, don’t breathe. Gasp for oxygen, your face buried in a towel, once you’ve finished.

Do not notice the dead, laughing.

Make coffee. Two rounded scoops of grounds, three cups water, and who knows how much gravel from ancient water pipes.

Close eyes. Thank God the neighbors are quiet. They dragged trashcans along their driveway, dropped boxes from their second-floor balcony—all of this well after midnight. Hopefully, not even the dead are up over there. Purple nightshade twists through chain link, the fence one solid bloom; the vine has wrapped itself around the plum tree in a backyard shotgun wedding.

Pour coffee. Take it black. Sip. Feel tiny gravestones down your throat.

Notice seven large parrots perched on a line between two phone poles. Their feathers glow green, brighter than money.

Fill large salad bowl with Cheerios. Add milk. Shovel mechanically into mouth.

Do not notice the parrots are now shiny black, look more like falcons.

Ingest two pills of sanity—one nightshade purple, one bleached bone—and a multivitamin, just in case you should live so long as to enjoy that sanity, whenever it might come—you’re pretty sure it’s not going to be today. The pills feel like larger chunks of gravestone going down.

Do not count the parrots. Do not notice there are only five now, or the two large splatter patterns below them, like when liquid-filled balloons are dropped from high above.

Drink more coffee. Keep drinking. There is only so much solace in the world.

Previously appeared in The Chachalaca Review, Vol. 5 (Fall 2019)

PHOTO: Lost Conure, Tarzan by Nancy L. Stockdale, used by permission. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is how to get through the morning on days I have to force one foot in front of the other. This happens a lot more often than I let on. The weights of depression and unreal expectations for myself can be crushing in themselves. Together, they become almost unbearable. Thank God for coffee.

YUNGKANS_AUTHOR_PIC

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who earned an MFA from California State University, Long Beach, while working as an in-home health-care provider. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and is upcoming from Tebor Bach Publishing.

ohara koson 1945
Instructions for painting a bird in six steps
by Fokkina McDonnell

Let your shadow be present. Someone needs to interpret their dreams.
First paint or draw a circle, as many claw prints as your years. Soot is fine. Work clockwise.
Call, chirrup, caw, chirp, chatter – wake your inner aviary.
Black ink is needed and tears. It cannot be rushed.
Use one hand. You may change hands when your fingers are cramped, like a talon.
Hunger. Fatigue. This is their life – hunting on the wing for insects, grub, the odd vole.

PAINTING: Geese at full moon (detail) by Ohara Koson (1945).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Doing a writing course The Avian Eye, I’ve become obsessed with birds, researching online: migration, the behaviour of cuckoo, the cleverness of crows.

McDonnell

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dutch-born Fokkina McDonnell has two poetry collections (Another life, Oversteps Books Ltd, 2016; Nothing serious, nothing dangerous, Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd, 2019) and a pamphlet A Stolen Hour (Grey Hen Press, 2020). Her poems have been widely published and anthologized. She received a Northern Writers’ Award from New Writing North in 2020. Visit her on Twitter and at acaciapublications.co.uk.

a-black-bird-with-snow-covered-red-hills.jpg!Large
How to Identify a Bird
by Laurel Benjamin

Focus on the orange beak, a crusher,
take your time, turn the nobs
oriented left to right—
see the racing stripe head, a bullet,
puff of white black white
flight action.
Zoom out from the golden
morning tree among white corollas
to bird frock a holiday suit,
dive and land.
I’ve studied the dynasty of devotion
among bird families,
a queenship of no solitary taste.
Now look from the side,
narrow as a finger, almost
disconsolate, almost tearful,
like a bride without like flesh,
without sugar breath.
From the front, view the open eyes,
too dilated, streaked neck,
hints of wing stripes, tan breast
no one can contest.
Or are there too many details
like a Victorian instruction book?
I set my eyes forward
to meet the bird’s as if
I the mother
eggs underneath, a little boudoir
with a dainty chair, house
with many breasted chicks.
Kneel down greenly
hour to hour,
employ a knowingness.
Like a fruit fully ripe, never rotting
on the vine, the feathered fabric,
not musk nor silk,
never peels back.
Tail flicks, throat opens,
verse a whistle followed by
a sharp explosive
chink.

PAINTING: A Black Bird with Snow-Covered Red Hills by Georgia O’Keeffe (1946).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Since the pandemic, I have gained a higher level of birdwatching, something that’s both intellectual and emotional, connecting with the birds, as never before.

1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurel Benjamin lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women’s PoetryCalifornia Quarterly, The Midway Review, Mac Queens Quinterly, Poetry and Places, WordFest Anthology, Global Quarantine Museum Pendemics issue, including honorable mention in the Oregon Poetry Association’s Poetry Contest 2017 and 2020, long-listed in Sunspot Literary Journal’s long list, among others. She is affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers. More of her work can be found at thebadgerpress.blogspot.com.

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 marjoriemaddox.com.

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
faithful,
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.

11-16-evelyn-with-kelley-in-gray

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.