Archives for posts with tag: wildlife

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All Things
by Jenny Bates

This year, everything seems to hang on the return of the Hummingbirds.

There have been neighborhood sightings. I think I heard…that small chitter

and squeak,

yet, none at the feeder.

          Last year, we named our first hummer, Hubble.
          She should come back, females are always first.

Once Hubble does arrive I will listen.

Stories of her travels, sadness and struggle.

As she sips the sugar water
I especially prepared.

Look up. I am still waiting for her return.

I’ll be silent amidst all death listening to her hum.

PHOTO: Hummingbird in the Rain by Coco Parisienne, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: All humans have learned about being human by what we have gained from observing our fellow animals. With a much longer history than humans, animals have learned not to accept, but to respect their differences. My poetry is based on this philosophy. I start with animal. To see the world through their eyes, and to understand it through their souls.

jenny bates

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenny Bates, born and raised in Michigan, is a poet from the foothills of North Carolina, and a member of Winston-Salem Writers, North Carolina, Poetry Society, North Carolina Writers Network. Her published books include Opening Doors: an equilog of poetry about Donkeys (Lulu Publishing, Raleigh, NC), Coyote with Coffee, a single poem fine craft volume (Catbird on the Yadkin Press, Tobaccoville, NC), and Visitations (Hermit Feathers Press, 2019). Her work has been published in Flying South, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Old Mountain Press, and Hermit Feathers Review. She is a consecutive contributing poet in Poetry in Plain Sight, and in 2017 she was a Top-10 Finalist in the Press 53 Single Poem Contest. Jenny’s poetry appeared in laJoie 2017-2019, a quarterly publication of Animals’ Peace Garden, dedicated to promoting appreciation for all beings. Her work also has been featured in Ought To Be Magazine, Poetry That Sustains Us, and Word Doodles Literary Magazine, 2020. In 2019, her poem “Fame Looks Both Ways” was included in the Walt Whitman Bicentennial Celebration for publication in Poets to Come. In 2021, her work was published in the inaugural issue of Self-Educating Poets Network, and her poem was First Prize winner in the “Love” Category in Pinesong, the premier journal of the North Carolina Poetry Society. In 2020, her latest book of poetry, Slip, was published by Hermit Feathers Press. In local circles, she is known as an animal whisperer to Donkeys, Coyotes and “Crow Folk.”

salmon stream
Henrietta: A Summer Love
by Joe Cottonwood

I do not claim to own this creek
but it flows through my property
and perhaps I own each day’s gurgle
that wakes me, and beds me, alone
after a winter of slow goodbye.

Today, a new sound: splash and thrash.
A salmon the size of an otter
struggles upstream over gravel,
pool to pool where she rests, gathers strength
for the next leap and spurt
driven by a memory she does not remember.

Nine miles from the Pacific she stops
at this dark pool under my footbridge.
In a drought year, no farther. Henrietta,
I christen thee after my favorite aunt
who has your face.

I do not claim to own this fish
but all summer she hovers in shadow,
fins barely moving, facing upstream.
Water enters, water departs
too shallow each way for escape.

At the post office I happen to meet Debbie,
a biologist who knows salmon, who also knows loss.
Something compels me to bring her to my bridge.
A secret. In a town of anglers, we tell no one else.
Debbie says Henri is waiting for a lover.

Next day, and next, Debbie drops by.
I’m not sure why. Together, daily we watch.
Henrietta says little. Avoids eye contact.
Same with Debbie who says they often starve.
Waiting to spawn, they die.

One morning, October, I awake to the rush of rain.
I run to the bridge where Debbie is already waiting.
Her hand on my shoulder. Mine, hers.
Henrietta is gone.
Debbie says Henri might return next spring.
Please, she says, call me if and when.

I am still waiting.
Strange, the signs we miss.
The love. The fish.

PAINTING: Spawning Salmon by Julie, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The “I” of this poem is actually a good friend of mine whose creek became the summer rest stop of a fish that he named Henrietta. Taking weekly walks with my friend I always paused to visit Henrietta, so I am the Debbie of the poem. From such waters, the poem swam away and took on a life of its own. I am still waiting for my friend to chew me out about this.

Cottonwood Joe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor with a lifetime of repairing homes and writing books. He lives with his high school sweetheart under giant redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California where he dodges wildfires while caring for curly-haired dogs and straight-haired grandchildren. His latest book is Random Saints. More at joecottonwood.com.

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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.

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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.

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How to Be a Malacologist
by Stephanie L. Harper

Remember when
your child’s heart led your head
like a garden snail’s head leads its footed belly.

Think back to when you were seven
& your adopted pet / school project, Kiddo,
gnawed away at a slice of banana on a glass slide
as you watched, thunderstruck, from beneath him
(find out on Wikipedia that he was using his radula
a structure akin to a tongue used by mollusks to feed).

Recall how proud you were of Kiddo when he not only lost
the school snail race, but redefined it, by turning around
at the half-way point, staying in his own lane, & crossing
the start-line before any of the other snails reached the finish.

Wonder why your teacher didn’t mention anything about Kiddo
& his compatriots being hermaphrodites, or how (if they chose)
they could all be both father & mother to their tiny-shelled progeny,
& realize how simple it would have been for her to call a snail’s powerful,
innate mechanism of retracting its tentacles into its head for protection
by its technical name: invagination.

Then, understand, finally, that if you’d been born with the ability
to operate yourself like a puppet, & pull yourself outside-in
by drawing your head down into your belly & out
through your foot, to invert your once-vibrant
body into an empty sock, how many times
you would have done exactly that.

First published in Panoply.  

Photo by Katarzyna Załużna, used by permission. Read about the photographer’s portraits of snails at mymodernmet.com

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When a friend and fellow poet asked me in a recent interview, “From where or what do your poems sprout?” I experienced this question viscerally. Poems really do sprout, don’t they? I mean, for me, whether they come up silently or explosively, and whether they arise all sallow and reedy, vivid and sweet, or tender, or sour, or even barely perceptible—at some point prior to their births, they are pollinated by my virtue of my orientation toward Life and how I apprehend, synthesize, store and/or ruminate on every experience—of my former and current human relationships; of all that being a mother means; of my interactions with animals, mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, oceans, rocks and sand, the sky and its heavenly bodies, manmade physical/technological and social infrastructures, literary, visual, and performed arts . . . Each one then germinates beneath the soil until something incites it to erupt: Whether the something is a disquietingly still and protracted fallow interlude, an intense or even haunting dream, an epic bout of insomnia that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, or one of the millions of much more innocuous ways I might be moved in the course of a day, what it never is, is predictable. In the whole scheme of things, though, it’s become dependable.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie L. Harper is a recently transplanted Oregonian living in Indianapolis, Indiana. Harper is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of two poetry chapbooks: This Being Done and The Death’s-Head’s Testament. Her poems appear in Slippery Elm Literary JournalPanoply, Isacoustic*, Cathexis Northwest, Riggwelter Press, Moonchild Magazine, Dust Poetry, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Visit her online at slharperpoetry.com.

licensed eric laudonien
Camels at Font’s Point
by Cynthia Anderson

At dawn, the badlands hide
nothing, their ridges and washes
repeating, impenetrable—

tale upon tale of entrapment,
a labyrinth of extinction.
The present wavers, enfolds

a mirage of water and grass,
drama of ghosts. Gold light
shines on golden flanks.

They were here.
For millions of years,
they ate and drank their fill,

roamed in herds and alone,
laid down trackways
and bones.

Time holds them tightly—
time and rock, sun and dust—
and the gusts scour their footprints.

PHOTO: Camel metal sculpture by Ricardo Breceda, Borrego Springs, California. Photo by Eric Laudonien, used by permission.

Fonts Point
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It was April 2000. My husband, Bill Dahl, and I were on a desert getaway to Borrego Springs—one of our favorite spots, a place we have visited countless times over the years. On this trip, we got up before dawn and bounced down a washboard dirt road to Font’s Point, barely making it to the overlook in our Honda Accord. Our goal: to catch the sunrise over the badlands. ¶ The vista spread out before us, a spellbinding maze. No sound, no movement—only stillness, stretching far back into deep time. Bill got the photo he came for, and I got something totally unexpected from a battered sign: an introduction to the ancient creatures that once lived here among streams and meadows—horses, camels, mammoths, sloths, bears. ¶ Out of this prehistoric bestiary, the camels captured my imagination. I had no idea that camels originated in North America, and that many species of camels, small to large, used to roam throughout Southern California. I started following their trail, visiting camel fossils in museums and learning about their history. Many years later, I completed a long poem about the camels which appears in my book Desert Dweller. This is the first section of that poem, commemorating where my journey began. ¶ For anyone interested in the ancient camels, two of the best places to see fossils and learn more are the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles and the Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont. Also, for Borrego lovers, the book Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert (Sunbelt Publications, 2006) is an excellent resource.

PHOTO: View of Anza-Borrego Desert (California) from Font’s Point by Bill Dahl, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a California State Park located within the Colorado Desert of Southern California. The park takes its name from 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, a Spanish word for sheep. With 600,000 acres, representing one-fifth of San Diego County, it is the largest state park in California.

Cynthia Anderson in 2000 at font's point

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she has published nine poetry collections, most recently Now Voyager with illustrations by Susan Abbott. She is co-editor of the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens and guest editor of Cholla Needles 46. Visit her at cynthiaandersonpoet.com.

PHOTO: The author standing at Font’s Point with the Anza-Borrego Desert behind her.

mc escher
Reincarnation
by Lee Parpart

To pluck words
from air like
winter grapes
shot through
with noble
rot, knowing
I’ll land every
line with the
pungent
clarity of a
Bordeaux
muscadelle.

To delight
party guests
with jaunty
ragtime riffs
when festivities
start to flag,
and to have
a good joke
ready in
French,
Russian, or
Cantonese
in case of
bored
Péquistes
or dull
visiting
diplomats.

To re-start
the wild
staccato
heart of a
struggling
passenger
somewhere
over the
Atlantic,
arriving at
Heathrow
a modest
hero, and to
cut a lean,
straight line
pirouetting
en pointe for
assembled
fans.

Only ten,
maybe twelve,
more turns
around the
board,
assuming
steady
forward
momentum
and no more
lives spent
rolling karmic
dung across
an endless
Serengeti.

IMAGE: “Scarabs” by M.C. Escher (1935).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It would take a lot of lives to master all of the skills I greedily imagined in response to this prompt [lumped together under the single skill “reincarnation”].  And although the dung beetle is depicted here as a low point for a human facing the possibility of reincarnation, dung beetles are hugely beneficial insects, reducing greenhouse emissions and helping farmers by burying animal waste. I could do worse than to spend a couple of lives rolling poo around the desert.

lee parpart

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lee Parpart won a typewriter in a Scholastic Inc. fiction contest in high school. It was a real workhorse, and she used it to write a bunch more poems and short stories, only to run away from creative writing at 18 after a guy in his forties who had published a couple of books invited her to lunch, insisted she try frog’s legs, and informed her that the prose sample she shared was “not great.” She recently returned to poetry and fiction after admitting both were central to her happiness and realizing she was insane to have listened to frog leg man in the first place. Her poems and stories have appeared in Hegira and Silver Birch Press, and her academic essays on cinema and TV have appeared in numerous books and journals. See leeparpartpoems.wordpress.com.

deer crossing
Rules of the Road
by N. Hess

It’s dark out.

It might rain.

There are deer on the road.

Every time I sat in the driver’s seat, my mother’s voice echoed in my brain. Each time I clicked the seat belt shut, her old litany of excuses snapped in place, too. Reasons why it wouldn’t be safe for me to drive. Good heavens, there are deer on that road! (Which would never just cause a dent in the car—always imminent death, of course.)

Welcome to Pennsylvania, where there are deer everywhere, every night. Yet most people go about their business, perhaps driving a little more cautiously in areas where deer are known to congregate, but driving nonetheless.

But not me. I stayed “safe” by not driving. Or if I really had to go somewhere, my mother drove me. (Clearly, she was the magical accident repellent that would keep me unharmed.)

I didn’t know then that it wasn’t about safety or my driving skills—it was about control. All I knew was that in high school and college, I was allowed to drive a grand total of 11 times. When I moved away after graduation, I was equal parts longing and terrified to drive myself anywhere.

Driving to the grocery store in my new town, I had to give myself pep talks. Talk myself out of thinking I was going to die every time I drove somewhere. Remind myself that if I could just get to the supermarket, I’d be rewarded with mac and cheese.

Those two miles each way to the store felt like an eternity for over a year. But each journey yielded two miles’ more experience than before. It adds up over time, and it gave me a voice. A voice that’s louder than hers.

To this day, I’ve never hit a deer.

PHOTO: “Deer crossing” by adrenalinpura, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Stephen King once said, “The only requirement [to be a writer]…is the ability to remember every scar.” My driving-related scars inspired this story. Although those wounds don’t cut as deeply these days, they still produce little twinges and pinches sometimes when I’m stuck in a traffic jam or driving down a lonely road at night. I keep telling myself that’s what healing feels like.

Hess

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: N. Hess writes twisted fiction. She lurks in the Philadelphia suburbs and is inspired by all things dark and mysterious.

AUTHOR PHOTO: N. Hess, daydreaming about a future in which self-driving cars will be the norm.

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Summer Dears
by Don Kingfisher Campbell

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I’m driving us
Around Crater Lake
We’re surprised to see
Small banks of snow

Daughter Emily yells
“Stop, there’s a beer”
I pull over
We stumble out

She stealthily steps
On soft white slush
There it is… a deer
All shoot…pictures

2

As we leave
The road starts winding
Again, this time
I spot a doe

On the driver’s side
We don’t even get
Out of the car
My cell phone is dead

My wife leans over me
Gets several shots
With her digital camera
Before the hind crosses

3

Now the Cube is rolling
On Highway 62
Starting to make minutes
Doing 45 miles an hour

Jenny completes
The lucky trio
Screams and pinches my arm
I stomp on the brakes

A mother and two fawns
Split up across
The shady asphalt
Six hearts beating fast

deer oregon

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During our 2012 trip to Crater Lake in Oregon, we were very surprised to find some snow in August, but then again, we’re talking an elevation of 7,000 feet here. And she did actually say “beer.” She’s my stepdaughter and had just arrived from China.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Don Kingfisher Campbell, MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, has been a coach and judge for Poetry Out Loud, a performing poet/teacher for Red Hen Press Youth Writing Workshops, Los Angeles Area Coordinator and Board Member of California Poets In The Schools, publisher of the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, leader of the Emerging Urban Poets writing and Deep Critique workshops, organizer of the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival, and host of the Saturday Afternoon Poetry reading series in Pasadena, California. For publication credits, please go to: http://dkc1031.blogspot.com

Mark
For me it was the trees
by Michael Mark

The ones stripped to their sap
by rhinos needing to scratch an itch,
dismembered by elephants
marking their existence,
left leafless by the insane baboons.

Broken and more beautiful,
they stood in defiance of death,
undeniably dead.

Even more than the too-close nightly roars
that shook our tent and made me leak pee,
then worry until light
that whatever predators were out there
would pick up the scent
and track it to us,

beyond the three giraffes
in a solemn row,
watching the jackals, hyenas and
cloud of vultures eating
the remains of their fallen elder,

it was the trees
that impressed me most
on our summer vacation.

Monuments to nothing I can name.
Were they even trees anymore?

From the crowded plane home,
I saw the skeleton sculptures
waving their tangled arms, frail,
skinless fingers clawing at the vastness
and me, not to forget.

In my bed, haunted.

I should have gotten out of the jeep.
I should have walked over to one of them
and sat down like Buddha.

© Michael Mark

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: This is a photo of my wife, Lois, and myself and one of the trees I wrote about on our photo-only safari in South Africa. Lois has a blog and has written about her travels, this trip included, at midlifeattheoasis.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was begun on the flight back home from our trip to Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and long-distance walker. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine, Lost Coast Review, Rattle, Ray’s Road Review, Spillway, Tar River Poetry, Sugar House Review, and other nice places. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

mole
LOOSE FUR
by Kasey Johnson

Not to be belligerent or strange;
in fact, to be the opposite,
you cut off all of your hair.
A Samson in the 80s,
some Delilah who swallowed you
and spit you out is wandering
toward me and I like her.
She looks like the kind
who’ll stay around
even when you don’t want her.
Now your hair is silvered
with gray like a mirror is
from a distance.

One day it’s a letter
reminding me you have
a soul, burrowing inside
like a mole whose tunnels
lead to a central cavern
where all the food is stored.
Who is meant
for the habits of moles:
loose fur, close dirt, final dark.
There is always more light
to force into the earth,
always more dirt
pushing back.

One day it’s our childhoods
switching paths on the way
to forgotten places.
You call for your brothers
but most of them are gone.
I call my sister
to say I am sorry
when I am not.
It is the fugitive in both of us
singing our names,
a wanted woman, wanton
and bellowing about what it is
inside us we tried to sunder.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I write because something inside tells me I must, something that is often impractical and unwieldy; however, writing provides its own elixir and I always feel more alive for the effort of putting words and phrases together.

IMAGE: “Mole” as featured in natural history book from 1926. Prints available at etsy.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kasey Johnson received a BA in English from Reed College and an MA in English Literature from the University of New Mexico. She is currently a writing instructor in Corvallis, Oregon, where she also serves as an editorial assistant and book review editor for CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women. Her work is forthcoming in Verdad