Archives for posts with tag: nature

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Not So Difficult Conversations
by Anne Namatsi Lutomia

Today we ate Indian food for dinner
At an Indian restaurant in an American midwestern town
Once food of the Indian gods and kings
Recipes passed on with secrets only known to the select few
Full grains of rice and cottage cheese and spinach
Now a meal for a customer who is king

Before we left the chef came to greet
At first hurriedly but not for long
He spoke of his times in Germany after the Berlin Wall came down
My friend spoke of growing up in Berlin when the Wall was up
They both agreed to return to Berlin someday
He spoke of the seven seasons found in winter
Of the high temperatures and rainy monsoons
We all were remembered the news about Dehli’s air quality improvement      during COVID-19 shutdown
Of how the skies of once polluted cities turned azure blue, and the air      fresh
He spoke of the high temperatures and increased rainfall in India
I spoke of the change in seasons and increased floods and drought in      Kenya
We all remarked on the tree-planting efforts by Wangari Maathai
My friend shared about the midwestern snowstorms and changing      winters
As Midwesterners we all agreed that the winters were not the same
And agreed that climate change is real and requires quick action

T’was time to say goodbye so we happily left
Promised ourselves to return to our new friend’s restaurant soon
In our stories we healed ourselves
In our action we must heal mother earth
The next generation must tell better stories than we do
Stories of a healed world

IMAGE: Porcelain Dinner Plate with Flower Petal World Map by Beisiss. Available on Amazon.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by the call for submissions and a conversation with an Indian restauranteur in a small midwestern town. I wanted to demonstrate how climate change conversations can be a basis for storytelling followed by action.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Namatsi Lutomia is a budding poet and a member of Champaign-Urbana poetry group. She enjoys reading and writing poems, and has published poems with Silver Birch Press, BUWA, and awaazmagazine. She also likes going for long walks and now lives in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

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Good Clean Dirt for My Grandsons
by Thomas A. Thrun

What do I tell them, my two young grandsons, in 2021?
How do I explain, simply, the importance of good clean dirt
and its role in healing our earth and slowing the warming?

The oldest reminds me he’s almost seven! His brother
proclaims, I’m five and a half! Tucking them in, I paraphrase
Tennessee Ernie Ford: God bless your pea-picking hearts!

I dim their room’s lights. I sigh to myself, almost cry, for I
am a Baby Boomer, born of parents of The Greatest Generation,
per former NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw’s book of 1998.

Pa and Ma farmed 80 acres in southern Wisconsin (1944-1990).
They’d each grown up with almost nothing in The Depression,
courted during WWII and raised us kids with cows and chickens.

Tobacco was our main cash crop, the one that paid the taxes
and helped all us get through college. Pa said, You kids don’t need
to wash your hands to eat lunch out here. It’s just good clean dirt!

Our farm basically was Sustainable long before the term
was fashionable. Pa did not like chemicals, but did use 2,4-D
to keep the thistles and nettles from shorting out the pasture fence.

Pa cultivated between tobacco rows with one horse, and we all
followed with our hoes, working out the weed sprouts between plants.
Come harvest, few weeds were left to damage the precious leaves.

The grandboys and I now play farm in our condo basement
with my 1950s vintage rubber cows, toy tractors, and implements.
I’ve built replicas of our 1900 barn, wood silo, and other buildings.

I’ve modpodged family photos to the undersides of hinged roofs
with captions detailing the care of livestock and the land itself.
And I talk about all this as we play, hoping dearly some sinks in.

For now (and if for some reason I am not around to witness
their becoming young men), this poem will have to do. Along
with others and the 125-page/400-photo memoir I’ve penned.

I want them to get good clean dirt stuck under their fingernails.
I want then to appreciate our Wisconsin conservation heritage and
have my copy of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac.

I want to tell them about former Gov. Gaylord Nelson. About
my picking up road litter and a very warm bottle of Blatz beer with
two friends, high school girls, on the very first Earth Day in 1970.

If nothing else, I want Ben and Miles to be Conservation Voters.
They do not know yet, but it’s already in their blood. I want them
to learn of Glasgow, where earth’s healing begins . . . again.

And, if only for a day, both sometime should eat lunch in a field,
with hands stained in harvest of organic food for others. I want them
to understand land ethics. To heal the earth, each in his own way.

PHOTO: Marinette County, Wisconsin, farm by Milo Mingo.

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NOTE1 FROM THE AUTHOR: Raised as a Badger State farm boy, the land always has been important to me. I am the son of a second-generation Wisconsin farmer. Growing up in the 1960s, my father often impressed upon us how fortunate my sisters and I were to have electricity, refrigeration, TV, and indoor, running water . . . among many other things. My father and his brothers all were born before WWI and knew the meaning of real hard work. They were tied close to the land, and often exchanged labor with other neighboring farmers and relatives. We used mostly hand tools, hoes instead of herbicides as much as possible. Labor from us, his children, was free and expected. Pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals were expensive.

PHOTO: Poet Tom Thrun and his twin sister, Nancy, about 1959, on their work horse. Older sister, Ruthie, holds the single-row tobacco cultivator.

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NOTE2 FROM THE AUTHOR: It is important t me that my children and grandboys know about all this, especially living here in this state with its rich (though now threatened) conservation heritage and ethics . . . as important as breathing, home cooking, poetry, charity, Country and Classical Music, and the sense of community. I now understand how my own father grew to hate pickled fish. I took an interest in writing early on, and my older sister gave me a paperback of Robert Frost’s Complete Poems when I was 13. The rest is poetic history.

PHOTO: Poet Tom Thrun has countless hours recreating his family farm for his children and two grandboys. His model features toy animals, toy tractors, other machinery from the 1950s and 60s, as well as arn, pig house, hen house, outhouse, tobacco shed, granary, and other structures. He has attached photos, some going back 100 years, to the undersides of the roofs. Thrun also has written a 100-plus-page Thrun Farm Family Memoir with over 400 photos. Through the model and book, he has captured the essence of an early-to-mid-20th-Century Wisconsin farm.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas A. Thrun, retired in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, is an English/Journalism graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He edited weekly newspapers both in Wisconsin and Washington State, among other varied career choices. Thrun cites his Wisconsin farming heritage and love for Robert Frost’s poetry among top influences of his own poetic work. He has been published in his retirement both in Wisconsin and other national online anthologies. He is included among the poets whose poems on “Words” have been selected for the upcoming 2022 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar.  Thrun and his wife have two grown children and two grandsons.  Thrun and his wife have two grown children and two grandsons.

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Vulturine Vespers
by Jenny Bates

On the third day without power
they came to roost by the house.

They’re here for me, I shivered.

Kept a close eye as they circled,
landed in the yard.

Someone died in the freak storm,
It was not me.

As the Vulture spread its wings
shrouding, hiding the dead

I fell in love with that embrace.

Later that night, and before expected,
the power came back on.

The world had not ended.

I will return, just like the trees
and the birds.

The cold clasp of sound-wind gone,
sunlight and house-bound vibration

sing our evening vespers once again.

Tide of the forest flows forward, the Vulture’s
frosty breath rises sotto voce

Humans don’t own the Earth.

Yet I hope we have a lovely long Summer
together.

PHOTO: Vultures watching the sunset by Val3re.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenny Bates is a member of Winston-Salem Writers, North Carolina Poetry Society, and North Carolina Writers Network. Her published books include Opening Doors: an equilog of poetry about Donkeys (Lulu Publishing, NC,  2010), Coyote with Coffee (Catbird on the Yadkin Press, NC 2014), Visitations (Hermit Feathers Press, NC 2019), and Slipher new collection (Hermit Feathers Press, NC 2020).

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Encore
by Julene Waffle

Stretching a path toward far-off hills,
the thunder clouds, like giant snails,
leave their marks on earth.

On the horizon the rain hangs,
silver-gray drapes.
And turkey vultures—

backwoods revival pastors
raise their arms in blessing—
are frozen in horaltic pose,

wing-dry their great fans of feathers
in the top of a bony tree.
Their empty nostrils, catching sky,

eagerly working olfactory bulbs—
do they, too, feel the bliss
of ozone and wet earth?

And when the storm curtain rises at last
and tucks behind the stage of the universe,
the great show of sunset begins

its lacy yellow steps and grand jetés,
red across the sky, its sweeping
orange grand révérence before purple night.

I applaud,
stand,
beg for more.

PHOTO: Turkey Vulture drying wings in tree (Central Massachusetts, Feb. 26, 2011). Photo by Mcvoorhis.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was inspired to write this poem after a soccer game my sons played in a rain storm. The storm cleared after the game and while we were waiting for the boys to gather their things, I saw these strange shapes in a dead tree across the street from the school. I knew they were birds, big birds, but I didn’t know what kind. I was drawn to them, so I got out of the car with my camera and zoomed in. They were turkey vultures with their wings spread wide to dry. As I returned to the car, the sky broke out in a most lovely sunset. I wanted to capture the retreat of the storm, the vultures, and the setting sun and after a little research on the vultures and ballet, “Encore” was born. I like this one because I think the vulture has a bad reputation when in reality they are a very cool creature.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julene Waffle, a graduate of Hartwick College and Binghamton University, is a teacher in a rural New York State public school, an entrepreneur, a wife, a mother of three boys, two dogs, three cats, and, of course, she is a writer. Her work has appeared in NCTE’s English Journal, La Presa, The Non-Conformist, and Mslexia, among others. She was also published in the anthologies American Writers Review 2021: Turmoil and Recovery and Seeing Things (2020)and her chapbook So I Will Remember was published in 2020Visit her at wafflepoetry.com.

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Catacombs
by Umar Saleh Gwani

We hunted and gathered
domesticating with ease,
we conquered

We tied leashes, halters,
often some fine ornaments
at altars built in celebrating
our might

Intelligent life sounds more
like advancement in running
like software to nowhere,
while mother sleeps

What if she’s nursing fatigue,
wounds from tons of emissions,
ego defined, war here,
battle there?

Let the earth heal and humans
learn to coexist and clean up,
so mother’s torn ligaments
can grow back strong.

PAINTING: Red Sun by Arthur Dove (1935).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem attempts to highlight Man’s abilities to conquer his terrain and overpower other creatures but how humans have been neglectful about sustaining the environment by cutting down, emissions, and other harmful practices leading to climate change. We are orphans once this earth dies.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Umar Saleh Gwani is an Information & Communications Technology consultant based in Bauchi, Nigeria. His hobbies include poetry, digital photography, and outdoor sports. He is the author of Thunderclap (ISBN: 978-978-56200-4-7), a poetry collection published by AMAB Books Nigeria, and his poems have been featured by online publishers such as Konya Shams Rumi and Praxis online Magazine.  He is married with children.

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Warblers, Ibis, Sparrows, Bittern, Kingfishers
by Ed Ruzicka

Even swaddled, Baby Henry wriggles
as if a worm works inside him.
He spits up onto cotton draped
over my daughter’s shoulder.

I call Baby Henry “Killer” because
my daughter is one of the new-minted
Fatima’s whose eyes flash above masks
as she whisks into patient’s rooms,
attends them bedside, orders new meds.

Martin, her husband, is even more at risk
in the ICU where he has to force tubes
down sedated throats so a machine
can fill failed lungs. Both carry
the hospital home to wee bean Henry.
Neither lets us within ten feet of our little pip.
No telling what might have found its way
into the frail birdcage of his ribs.

Renee and I stand on the lawn.
The three of them stay by the door.
Martin shows us what they call “Superman.”
Martin puts Baby Henry tummy down
over his shoulder. Sleepy Henry stretches
halfway straight, maybe too dangerously close
to an unseen load of Kryptonite.

The next weekend we take the canoe out.
Oars on knees, wind nudges us under
cypress branches luminous as lettuce.
A yellow bibbed bird lights, fluffs
six feet above Renee’s shoulder. Maybe
a vireo, maybe a warbler? Let’s go with vireo.
Back out in the lake we drift through dozens
of birdcalls, each an illegible signature
with its own set of runs, quavers, fades.

I barely know a handful. Maybe I’ll
recognize more by the time I get young Henry
into a boat, row him around, teach him to keen
into the silence behind all the birdsongs
that will have gone extinct before he
learns to tune his own ears up.

PHOTO: Philadelphia vireo. Photo by Patrice Bouchard on Unsplash.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem moves from the early Covid period to the amphitheater of a nearby lake where birds still thrive. Every year now I listen deeper and deeper into our mornings and try to hear just a few shrill notes from the bushes. We used to have so many birds that crossed over or stayed in our yard and neighborhood. Now though the city has learned better how to quash the mosquito population, though ants choke to death on pesticides in underground chambers and hallways, though the lawns are lush with chemical nutrients and weed killers, the birds are few and are dwindling.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ed Ruzicka’s most recent book of poems, My Life in Cars, was released a year ago. Ed’s poems have appeared in the Atlanta Review, Rattle, Canary, the Xavier Review and the San Pedro River Review, as well as many other literary journals and anthologies. A finalist for the Dana Award and the New Millennium Award, Ed is an Occupational Therapist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he lives with wife, Renee.

PHOTO: The author on a lake near his home in Louisiana. 

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After the burning
the forest returns
by Kelley White

—for Dr. Al Shigo, May 8, 1930-October 6, 2006

“Trees as a group are intelligent. Intelligence
means the ability to connect information
in ways that assure survival.”

past seared hemlock, split beach, scarred maple,
I am waiting by the damp places for the thick amazement
of berries, brave through the squalling mosquito clouds,
the tearing tartness of red, raspberry, thick confusion, of black,
berry, hard ticking of grasshopper and bee as the sun climbs
noon through new green aspen saplings, moose
maple, stinkwood, black birch cotyledons, choke
cherry, ash, —pushing two-leaved through low growth—
creepers, princess pine, ground pine, mosses, whip fork
and broom, powder gun, hairy cap, succulent snow-
berry, wintergreen, fierce climbing snapdragon,
thrust through fecund droppings, bear, moose, deer
sign, rabbit scat, new green touch-me-not, honeysuckle,
wild grape, strangling bittersweet, and your own, your fungi,
destroying angel, puff ball, witch’s butter, morel,
staghorn, in scrub brush, sumac, elderberry, in liminal
cattail, pussy willow, prickly wild rose; white light
on the ledges, the granite mountain, past tree line,
hot crow call on sun-burned shoulder, cracked paper
birch, wind-burned pine in the place of eagles,
pail thump of rock blueberries in lichen dry desert
(lush moss-worlds after rain,) checkerberries, trillium, Indian
pipe, ladyslipper, one shaft of sunlight, and dark
owl-pellet damp, cool waterfall thrush; trees may not heal,
but the forest does, seeks fingerling strawberries
in low burning grass, sand tunneling bee hiss, skitter
ant, quick knee prickle through juniper sharp branches—
read the runes, beetle-track beneath bark, dragonflies
in coupled flight, ballooning spiders, sugar maples scarred
by drunk sapsuckers, and ashes, noon hot bird sky, you, rising
ash, smoke, pollen, snake in hawkgrasp, seed, falling—my
startled hand seizing all, red tipped and eager, pushing
into the heart of brambles, transfixed by thorns—
almost worth the fire, the blackened stumps

PAINTING: Fires in the Forest by Laszlo Mednyanszky (1910).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Renowned plant pathologist Alex Shigo lived across the street from me as I was growing up in a small New Hampshire town during the 1960s. I remember many hikes with Dr. Shigo and my best friend, his daughter Judy, and learned much about insect life and fungi and something about the many layers of life in a forest. (To quote his story in Wikipedia, he was “a biologist, plant pathologist with the United States Forest Service whose studies of tree decay resulted in many improvements to standard arboricultural practices.”) Judy now oversees his archives and handles requests for his publications, including Modern Arboriculture—Touch Trees. I was very excited to hear him quoted a few years ago in a workshop I attended in Philadelphia about tending “urban trees.” His work, and my remembrance of his teaching, give me some hope for our multi-species planet, even for one of his special areas of expertise, the lowly yet vital fungi. (Let me mention here a book he guided me to: Lucy Kavaler’s 1965 Mushrooms, Molds, and Miracles, as fascinating now as when I read it in fourth grade.)

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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 most recent collection is A Field Guide to Northern Tattoos (Main Street Rag Press.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant and is currently Poet in Residence at Drexel University College of Medicine.

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In the Beginning
by Margaret Dornaus

Start with a prayer.
It might contain just one word.
Or many—

Length doesn’t matter so much
as intention. Rest assured
words can propagate

exponentially . . .
like the seeds you plant
in early spring

when the wind is still
at your back. When hope holds
scarcely long enough

to keep you and the future
together for at least another
season of growing

your own version of a victory
garden, filled with tomatoes
and eggplants and other humble

members of the nightshade
family. Without ever fearing
extinction. Without feeling even

the tiniest threat of devastation. Start
before the work commences—the hoeing,
the weeding, the careful cultivation of

sun and shade, the gentle
layering of compost and leaves,
the tender tamping down,

the turning of the earth in need
of additional nutrients and endless
watering. Start with a prayer,

then begin again.
And again— Don’t stop!
Start with a prayer:

In the beginning . . .

PAINTING: Thankful Harvest by ArtsyBee.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The past two years have brought so many crises to light, not the least of which is climate change. I often wonder how one person can begin to make a difference in this pandemic world of ours. I’m not sure, but I do know that indifference and inaction are beyond contemplation. Better to use whatever tools we have at hand to try to heal ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbors, and the earth. For me, that means raising my voice, passionately, prayerfully, deliberately, as often as I can.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret Dornaus holds an MFA in the translation of poetry from the University of Arkansas, and recently received recognition as a semifinalist in Naugatuck River Review’s 13th Annual Narrative Poetry Contest for her poem “First Sleepaway.” Her first book of poetry, Prayer for the Dead: Collected Haibun & Tanka Prosereceived a 2017 Merit Book Award from the Haiku Society of America. In 2020, she had the privilege of publishing a pandemic-themed anthology—behind the mask: haiku in the time of Covid-19—through her small press, Singing Moon, and received a Best of the Net nomination from MacQueen’s Quiinterly. Other recent work appears in Global Pandemic, MockingHeart Review, Silver Birch Press’ I AM STILL WAITING seriesThe Ekphrastic Review, and The Lindenwood Review. 

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The Lilac Bushes and the Forest-Tent Caterpillars
by Martin Willitts Jr

Lilacs grew on our boundary.
My window opened to a whiffed aroma of lilacs.
Light-purple light would wake me.

There was a thin spider-web nest of caterpillars.
In the weight of their nest squirmed black larvae,
begging for mercy. The larvae moved together single file.
Silken treads were laid down by leaders.
They knew they were going places
and they were destroying things in the way.
Buff-colored moths emerged about 10 days later.
They searched the solitude of streetlights.
The neighbors tried smoking the nest to kill it.

I could hear the caterpillars dying.

Everything is a by-product of disagreement.
Everything that was is gone.
Everything that will be is not possible anymore.

And in the end, nothing survived.
The neighbors passed on.
My father turned purple as a lilac, and died.
There are no more moths hovering on streetlights.
There are no lilacs neighborhoods.
There is nothing left to argue about.
Some army follows a blue line over boundaries.
Some moon is disjointed in the darkness of larvae.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem will appear in my next full-length collection, Not Only Are the Extraordinary Entering the Dream World (Flowstone Books, 2022).

PHOTO: Lilacs, lighting, and lens flare by MattysFlicks (2014).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martin Willitts Jr, edits the Comstock Review and judges the New York State Fair Poetry Contest. His work has been nominated for 17 Pushcart and 13 Best of the Net awards. His awards include: Winner of the 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry ContestRattle Ekphrastic Challenge, 2015, Editor’s ChoiceRattle Ekphrastic Challenge, Artist’s Choice, 2016; Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize, 2018; and Editor’s Choice, Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, 2020. His 25 chapbooks include the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award winner The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 21 full-length collections, including Blue Light Award winner The Temporary World. His most recent book is Harvest Time (Deerbrook Editions, 2021). Find him on Instagram and Facebook.

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Sprinklers Underground
by Tina Hacker

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Previously published in The Fib Review (June 20).

Photo by kim giseok on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a Fibonacci poem, a form that gives me a sense of freedom. The pattern of words opens up a world of ideas that both follow the word count and work as a poem.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tina Hacker is happy to announce that 33 golems have joined the literary community in her book titled GOLEMS, released by Kelsay Books in June 2021. Hacker’s poems about these magical creatures from Jewish folklore were first published and, because of their popularity, then serialized in the online journal Quantum Fairy Tales. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. And a golem added that her other poetry collections are Listening to Night Whistles (Aldrich Press) and Cutting It (The Lives You Touch Publications). GOLEMS is available on Amazon.