Archives for posts with tag: nature

two bees and clover
Being Like Bees
by Darrell Petska

Costumed in a space suit, wielding a smoke pot
and pry bar, the beekeeper tore at our farmhouse—
Sis and I fretting the plight of our bees.

Within nestled the queen in her honey-castle,
among lacy-winged ladies-in-waiting, wooing suitors,
and couriers relating nectar news.

Great gloved hands uprooted the hive’s pulsing heart.
How we’d miss their sunny choruses, their lullabies
hummed inside the wall, inches from our ears.

What would they do without Mother’s flowers?
Would they starve without Father’s hay fields?
Sis and I had listened and heard: they needed the freedom

we enjoyed, sun-warmed and wind-sped
across our green bit of heaven just fence rows
removed from the perplexing world of grown-ups

like the gruff beekeeper shooing Sis and me back,
bribing us with chunky goodness from the queen’s rich store
as he brushed the last bees from the honeycomb.

There we sat munching, our concerns allayed
by reassurances regarding our bees’ new home
and golden honey drizzling down our chins.

So brief their stay, yet they’d sweetened our lives—
Sis and I leaned together, imagining our future akin to that
of honeybees: wherever life took us, we’d go there together.

PHOTO: Two bees and clover by Dariusz Kopestynski.

 NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My sister, Shirley, died at age nine. I was eight. The bees came and were relocated the last full summer we shared together. Do the dead really ever go away? Perhaps that explains, a little, the honey jar always on my countertop.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Darrell Petska is a retired university engineering editor and 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee. His poetry and fiction can be found in 3rd Wednesday Magazine, Nixes Mate Review, Verse Virtual, Monterey Poetry Review, Orchards Poetry Journal, and widely elsewhere. Find links to his work at conservancies.wordpress.com. A father of five and grandfather of six, he lives near Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife of more than 50 years.

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Blam Goes a Tufted Titmouse
by Ruth Weinstein

I see the sound BLAM in big bold balloon caps,
in comic-book pop-art bright primary colors,
in the asterisks ampersands and exclamation points
Roy Lichtenstein would use to cloak an avian superhero,
and go outside to seek a small feathered projectile—
a cardinal or one of subtler color—stunned but not dead,
I hope, on the deck outside my bedroom windows.

Nothing on the wooden boards or planting table,
no cat with little gray or brown bird in its mouth.
A quick scan reveals a tufted titmouse, hooked
at an odd angle to the screen door, where it landed
in rebound from the window and clutched the fine
metal mesh so hard that it cannot set itself free.

The obsidian bead of its eye pierces me.
I fear its tiny heart might beat too fast
in its chest if I touch it, this intricate machine
made for flight, but it struggles piteously.

I hold it with one hand, writing reassurance
in animal braille, and with the fingers of the other
I release curled claw toes from the web of screen.
I surround it with the loose yet firm clasp of freedom,
the cupped harbor of my own, now trembling, hands.

I blow warmth from my lungs onto its body and breathe
a good liftoff to launch it safely. Suddenly it knows that
it can fly again, and its gray white and rust-sided plumage,
its punk feathered-do, the prodigious sound it made,
its tribulation—all are gone as if nothing ever happened.
The window the screen door the deck bear no trace.
Only the electric vibrations of my still trembling hands.

PHOTO: Tufted titmouse by Jack Bulmer.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem in the autumn of 2021. The south wall of our bedroom is filled with windows, on which I have taped cutouts of hawk shapes and adhered butterfly decals to prevent songbirds from slamming into the windows when they mistake their own reflections for other birds. Many have broken their necks, one or two have been caught by now aging, no longer quick or agile, cats. If I hear the sound, I rush to the rescue. The sound this small bird made was so huge and visual and made a great prompt for a poem. The poem came together rather quickly. Somehow, a line from the old Roberta Flack song, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” came to mind and the “trembling heart of a captive bird/that was there at my command” translated to “my trembling hands” holding a rescued bird. The event is a treasured memory of this avian save.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruth Weinstein is an octogenarian organic gardener who lives with her husband on 40 hard-scrabble acres in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Her back-to-the-land life is often at the center of her poetry and essays. A family history/memoir of her first 18 years, Back to the Land:  Alliance Colony to the Ozarks, was published in 2020 by Stockton University Press. In it, she connects the dots—beginning with her ancestors, who helped found America’s first successful, Jewish agricultural community in southern New Jersey in 1882—to her own chosen life of nearly 50 years. Her 10-poem collection, “The Legendary Tomatoes of New Jersey,” is the current third-place winner of the annual Miriam Rachimi Micro Chapbook Poetry Prize, published by Poetica Publishing. Her poetry appears online and in print. Ruth is also a life-long textile artist who paints floor clothes, weaves, quilts, designs, and constructs one-of-a-kind clothing and articles for the home, as well as nonfunctional art pieces. Ruth has a low social media presence but can be found on Facebook. If interested in her memoir, please DM her for purchasing information. She urges that you do not buy books from Amazon if you can purchase them from the author.

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First Encounter
by Melody Wilson

Bored of squeezing snapdragons’ cheeks,
impersonating my sister through their ruffled
lips, I sift petals in the soil, yellow, pink. A bean
wobbles toward me, domed creature marching
through chips. I press my finger
against the ground, up it crawls.
Eyelash feet, butterfly kisses,
up my finger and into my palm.
I draw my folded hands close
to my face, open: “Peek a boo!”

Its antennae wonder.
“Don’t be afraid” I poke
its shiny shell. Smooth,
cool as orange peel, familiar as fingernail.
I blow into my palm. The creature rolls up,
tight as a pea. I am wonderstruck,
test it with a tap. It rolls over once,
rocks back, Still, mute. A magic trick? A disaster?

I drop it into the leaves and stand,
brush dirt from my dress, glance
toward the house. My mother is working
in the den, my sisters playing records. The sprinkler
chides: chhh chhh, chhh, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch ch.
I tower in the flower bed, in my guilt,
step toward the sidewalk, look again
into the mulch. The bug ambles
toward the tomatoes, my tricycle’s streamers
glitter in the breeze.

PHOTO: Woodlouse on a twig by Mojo Maniac.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I spent much of 2020 writing a collection of poetry about my mother, at the end of which I felt pretty exhausted. So I decided to write a series of poems about bugs. The only reason I decided to do this was that they provided a way for me to do a little research, which I love, and focus on something that has few if any emotional resonances. Well, bugs turned out to have a lot of emotional weight and became a chapbook that will come out in August 2023. This is one of my favorites of that group. The bug in the poem is unnamed for two reasons. Because the narrator is a child and it’s her first encounter, and because the name of the “bug” is regional and a topic of conversation.  So, to me it’s a curly bug, but to some people it’s a pill bug, or a rolly polly. Sometimes it’s a sow bug.  It’s actually not even a bug but a crustacean.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The woodlouse has 176 nicknames and seven pair of lungs, according to Country Life. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melody Wilson’s recent work appears in Quartet, Re Dactions, Sky Island Review, and on VerseDaily. New work will appear in Sugar House Review, Minnow, and Nimrod. She received the 2021 Kay Snow Award and recognition for the Oberon, Dobler, and Pablo Neruda Awards. Her first chapbook, Spineless: Memoir in Invertebrates, was a finalist for the New Women’s Voices competition. It will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2023. Find her work at melodywilson.com.

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Pulling Off Route 79 on a Summer Day
by Sharon Ball

1.
Watching the white butterfly stop and sit
on a leafy green sunspot, then lift again
flickering on bright air,
propelled up, down, sideways across the road,
flying toward my open window.
Will it flap in or pass on through the trees to the river?

2.
White butterfly floats
Aspens quake against blue sky
Sun-dappled woods keep secrets.

3.
Through the trees, the river moves fast with yesterday’s rain.
I barely hear the water over the whoosh and hum
of coming cars and going trucks.
In between, leaves whisper of gifts as
the white butterfly melts into quiet woods.

Photo by Saturday Sun on Unsplash. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is the unexpected result of a solo drive through the countryside. At some point, I pulled off the road, rolled down all my car windows, and paid attention to the beauty around me. I tapped the poem into my cellphone and transcribed it later at home. Except for a new title and a few small edits, the poem appears as it came to me that day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon Ball is a retired arts executive who is currently in school to finish her B.A. in creative writing/poetry. She has performed her poetry, essays, and original songs live in venues in Northeastern United States and on National Public Radio in Washington, DC, where she previously worked as an award-winning editor. Her poem “Raindrops Sparkling in the Spruce Tree When the Sun Comes Out” was published in the multicultural anthology Confluence, edited by Susan Deer Cloud. Sharon’s essay “Remembering Octavia” appeared in Anthropology Off the Shelf: Anthropologists on Writing, edited by Alisse Waterston and Maria D. Vesperi.

PHOTO: The author and her cat, Miss Kitty. Photo by JW Johnston.

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The Nth Wonder of the World,
North Shore of Oahu
by Rafaella Del Bourgo

On our way,
we collect the red cone-like flowers
of shampoo ginger
to squeeze onto our hair
during tonight’s bath in the forest.
Rose apples,
fruit-sweet and flower-scented,
are devoured as we pick them.
The ruby avocadoes
we save for lunch.

At The First Resting Spot,
pillowed with soft pine needles,
we lie on our backs
and peer through the branches
at birds, some as bright as gemstones,
and, above them,
at clouds racing toward Kauai.
We sip herbal tea
and savor its gentle bite.

The pathway becomes muddy.
Bushes, pushed aside,
snap back and grab our clothes.
But finally, there it is,
The Nth Wonder of the World,
a tree trunk the size of a giant’s right arm
growing horizontally across the ravine;
brown fingers of roots on one side
and burrowing branches on the other
keep the land
from splitting apart.

We carefully walk along
the massive trunk to midway,
sit, dangle our legs,
and share lunch.
The air is soft and moist
as if the creek below
were breathing on us.

PHOTO: Crooked Palm Tree at Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii by Vince Lim.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Many of my happiest memories involve being out in nature – warm nature, benevolent nature. The five years I spent living and sailing in Hawaii provide several of these.  With our friends Kim and Brent, we often started from their North Shore home and hiked to The Nth Wonder of the World. It was always just us, the birds, the plants and trees. It was quiet and serene, magical really.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rafaella Del Bourgo’s writing has appeared in journals such as Nimrod, The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, The Adroit Journal, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Caveat Lector, Puerto Del Sol, Rattle, Oberon, Spillway, and The Bitter Oleander. She has won many awards, including the Lullwater Prize for Poetry in 2003, and, in 2006, the Helen Pappas Prize in Poetry and the New River Poets Award. In 2007, 2008, and 2013, she won first place in the Maggi Meyer Poetry Competition. The League of Minnesota Poets awarded her first place in 2009. In 2010, she won the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and the Grandmother Earth Poetry Prize. She was awarded the Paumanok Prize for Poetry in 2012, and then won first place in the 2013 Northern Colorado Writers’ Poetry Contest. Finally, she won the Mudfish Poetry Prize for 2017 and was nominated for a third time for the Pushcart Prize. Her chapbook, Inexplicable Business: Poems Domestic and Wild, was published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press. In 2012, she was one of 10 poets included in the anthology Chapter & Verse: Poems of Jewish Identity.  Her first book, I Am Not Kissing You, was published by Small Poetry Press. She has traveled the world and lived in Tasmania and Hawaii. She recently retired from teaching college-level English classes, and resides in Berkeley, California, with her husband.

PHOTO: The author at Makapu’u on Oahu, looking toward Turtle Island (1989).

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Second Cutting
by Amy Nemecek

My dad surveys the south field
from the seat of his Farmall C.
With one eye he watches the west,
where a fist-sized pewter scruff
threatens rain. With the other eye
he gauges a row of cut, crimped
stalks crisping in the heat and rakes
them into sage-gold windrows. The
sun is setting as he hitches the rusty
baler to begin a steady sweep-push-
sweep-push-sweep-push-knot, and
prickly slick squares slide from its
chute to land on dusky stubble. I drive
our smoke-blue Ferguson in low gear
with an empty wagon jouncing behind.

My brothers walk to either side,
heft bales by the twine and pitch
them onto the weathered flatbed.
After each row I depress the clutch,
pausing so they can climb aboard
and order the jumble into solidity.
Chaff coats their tanned torsos,
bootcut Levi’s, and tousled hair,
but above red bandanas that shield
mouth and nose, their itchy eyes
glimmer youth. A sweaty scent
mingles with clean alfalfa, tractor
exhaust, and an August moon that
rises amid cicadas’ crescendo
to silver our lives with its smile.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a snapshot of a summer evening from my childhood, which I spent roaming every acre of our family’s small hobby farm. Summers were spent either in the vegetable garden growing food for ourselves or in the hayfields growing food for our small menagerie of cows and horses and goats. It was hard work, but it was work we did together, and it gave us all a sense of satisfaction and delight. Those summer nights spent in the fields with my dad and brothers are some of my fondest memories, and being able to convey that joy through these lines brings me joy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Nemecek was awarded the 2021 Paraclete Poetry Prize for her forthcoming book The Language of the Birds (Paraclete Press, 2022). Her poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Presence, Relief Journal, St. Katherine Review, and Whale Road Review. Amy lives in West Michigan and works as a book editor. When she isn’t crafting words, she enjoys taking long walks in nature and spending time with her husband and son.

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One Good Thing
by Catherine Klatzker

I hear the tree-trimmers
before I see them. Workmen
in fluorescent lime green
jackets and bright blue
helmets position traffic cones
in the street, already raising
one worker in the squeaky
cherry picker, ready to slash.

Heart racing, unsure if the tree
with the new crow’s nest will
be spared, I slip into my shoes
and face mask and speed down
to the street—to what? To stop the
timber slaughter? I did not imagine
myself as tree monitor and bird
protector this day. It seems
frivolous. I know it is not.

There is so much needless death
and destruction in this world. Maybe
not today for this crow family.

The tree-trimmer axes branch after
branch from the neighboring palm
trees. He sways closer to the nesting
Corvus, ready to hack. Two crows
instantly sweep up and circle above
his head. The mulcher devours
fallen palm fronds as the defeated
worker descends to the ground.

The crow pair has not dived
at the worker, nor vocalized,
but it is well known that crows do
not forget a face. They will
remember a dangerous person’s
face and get the word out.

All night, I watch for the crows’
return, alert for swooping wingspan,
their flapping plunge. I anticipate
my joy when they reappear.
All night, the sky is empty.

At daybreak, one crow drops
gingerly onto an upper palm
branch, a ramp to her rugged
nest. I hold my breath as she
inches her way down, slow
as parched creek mud, and
in the pale dawn she reenters,
home.

PHOTO: Mother crow feeding her nestlings by Sally Wynn from Pixabay.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Klatzker is the author of You Will Never Be Normal (Stillhouse Press, 2021). She lives and writes in California in a fourth-floor condo that resembles a tree house. Her prose and poetry have appeared in mental health anthologies as well as a range of other publications, including Atticus Review, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Tiferet Journal, Please See Me, River Teeth‘s “Beautiful Things,” The Forge Literary Magazine (upcoming), and others. Visit her at catherine.klatzker.com.

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My Son Slows Me
by Dick Westheimer

His backpack was bigger than ours,
bulged with more than tent staves,
his little sister’s sleeping pad
and his mother’s foul weather gear.

At noon on our first day out, we find
a shade cave, just five miles
into the high desert canyon,
where we, black-fly bitten and

painted red by the midday
blaze, stopped for rest.
As I reached into a side pocket
for a mushed up pb&J, Gabe

called me over. Get out the stove
he asked, turned to his brother,
said, Pull out the cook set. Do we
have time, I asked, for this?

He replied, gesturing
to the gathering stream below,
the red rock canyon walls,
the generous overhang we found

ourselves under, All we have
is time, he said. Brother
and brother and father,
set to work while the others

drifted in heat dreams.
I chopped greens and sweet chilies
while the boys assembled the stove
ignited the flame, sautéed sweet

onions in oil awaiting my sous chef
prep. We seven ate like queens
of the caverns, cleaned up in the chorus
of the rushing waters, slept,

heads rested on packs, til the sun
lowered a few degrees to the west.
Awakened, I heard the older boy
say: Greens today. Carrots tomorrow.

Beans can wait. And I knew
what he carried was so much more
than the weight he’d offered
to take off our less robust backs.

Photo by StockSnap from Pixabay. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My eldest son Gabe is an adventurer and an extraordinary cook.  But he is not goal oriented like I am. Both adventuring and cooking for him are part of a larger appreciation for “the moment.” On a backpacking trip together, I learned the joy of “being there” rather than “getting there” from his simple example.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dick Westheimer has—with his wife and writing companion Debbie—lived on their plot of land in rural southwest Ohio for over 40 years. His most recent poems have appeared or are upcoming in Rattle, Paterson Review, Chautauqua Review, Whale Road Review, Minyan, Gyroscope Review, Northern Appalachia Review, and Cutthroat. More can be found at dickwestheimer.com.

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Listen to the Youth
by Elizabeth McCarthy

In Glasgow, Scotland
            the powerful discuss
recovery as the patient orbits the sun,
            its temperature rising
                        at every turn

as if Paris was enough to stop the burn

“empty promises — 30 years of blah, blah, blah”
                        will not cure what has been done

in time for children to live their lives
            on earth of green. Where freedom
                        ends in fires and floods, as futures
            wash away in the silty mud of greed.

Be the change you wish to see,
            each day the sun will rise and shine,
health is there in the light of day
            if we give up our fuel burning ways.

Silence the days of old, where gray haired
croakers prescribe greenwash on the windows of reality.

Listen to youth who march for truth.

*quotes are from Greta Thunberg, leader of the global movement to save our planet.

PHOTO: Greta Thunberg at the European Parliament on March 4, 2020.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I think one first has to recognize the diagnosis and prognosis for our planet before one can determine a treatment,  “How to Heal the Earth.” So, in this poem, I attempted to begin with where we are before addressing a prescription for health, which as suggested is in each of our hands as well as listening to those who speak the truth.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth McCarthy lives with her husband in an old farmhouse in northern Vermont, where they raised two children, several generations of free roaming hens, and made numerous attempts at keeping honey bees alive through cold winters and marauding bears. In 2018, she retired from teaching and turned to poetry in March 2020 when Covid closed down the world and time became a windfall.

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Mourning Song for the Earth
by Marjorie Maddox

Here the stone heart
waits for the tug of tide,

the undertow of pull,
the grainy tabula rasa of mind

lapped clean of conscience.
Or not. Even now,

seaweeds entwine; brittle
entanglements rot in the sun.

The dying snare the dead.
Such rocky shores.

Each dawn, the gulls caw
their crescendo of shriek,

capsized days breaking
into dirge, the cracked

and soulful as lonely
as this sad ballad of loss,

swooping low then rising
in morning’s daily aubade of hope.

Such deceptive beauty:
elegy for the earth.

Previously published in Masque & Spectacle and in Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts Publishing 2022).

Photo by Karen Elias.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetr­­­­­y Prize and 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 Readiing Poems with Insider Exercises and A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry, Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems , I’m Feeling Blue, Too! (2021 NCTE Notable Poetry Book)—Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence (assistant editor); and 650+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Forthcoming in 2022 are her books Begin with a Question (Paraclete Press), as well as her ekphrastic collaboration with photographer Karen Elias, Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts, 2021). Find more of her work at marjoriemaddox.com.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: After teaching college English for forty years, Karen Elias is now an artist/activist, using photography to record the fragility of the natural world and raise awareness about climate change. Her work is in private collections, has been exhibited in several galleries, and has won numerous awards. She is a board member of the Clinton County Arts Council, where she serves as membership chair and curator of the annual juried photography exhibit.

ABOUT THE POET AND PHOTOGRAPHER: Karen Elias and Marjorie Maddox are engaged in an exciting, mutually inspiring project, combining poetry and photography in creative collaboration. Their work has been exhibited at The Station Gallery (Lock Haven, Pennsylvania). Additional collaborations have appeared in such literary, arts, or medical humanities journals as About Place: Works of Resistance and Resilience, Cold Mountain Review, The Ekphrastic Review, The Other Journal, Glint, Masque & Spectacle, Open: Journal of Arts and Letters, and Ars Medica.

PHOTO: Author Marjorie Maddox (left) and photographer Karen Elias (right).