NEWS FROM THE FRONT

NEWS FROM THE FRONT

Meanwhile, the wrens who nest

in the wooden pole that holds up

the clothesline are feeding their hatchlings.

 

All day long, they come and go,

poke bugs into the dark hole

where the babies eat, and grow.

 

The dog barks on the porch.

A great-crested flycatcher rests

for a minute on a blooming branch

 

of dogwood. I sit on an overturned

flowerpot in the garage, watching

through a dirty window.  A chipmunk

 

squeals and runs away. A breeze

flashes through the grass. A red-eyed

vireo sings on and on.

BREAKING

BREAKING

It’s what happens when you see it,

when you know it’s all free as God.

 

One day it’s all duty,

but the rope breaks,

or a bell rings far away.

You see someone else

doing the thing you could not do

and all the stars come out  

and your closet door 

blows open wide.

 

And now what do you expect?

Nothing.  Nothing, at last.

Perhaps sunrise.

When you drop a cup, it will fall.

You will not glance off Earth,

go careening into the dark.

But the rest, not a thing:

consistency least of all.

 

Even what you will do tomorrow.

Sunrise, yes, yes,

but the color of the clouds,

the way the wind moves which new leaf,

where the sparrow sings,

the pattern of the towhee’s scratch.

What treasure will disclose.

How many orange tulips,

and  asparagus from each deep root.

 

 

 

published in Ruah, 2005

Ten Rules for Poetry, #9

10  RULES FOR POETRY, #9

Don’t keep anything for yourself:

the scent of white iris or wild grape flowers,

the empty spaces between stars,

the russet tail of the crested flycatcher

and his raucous, tuneless voice. Don’t keep 

linnet’s wings, or the hummingbird 

who bathed this morning

under the spray of your garden hose,

or the scarlet tanager, always just

out of sight in the oak.  

 

And don’t keep uncertainty. And tell us

when you mourn. When you are afraid,

don’t hold it close. When the world

is too much with you, when darkness

comes every morning, when the center

cannot hold, when everything

you love is falling away, when dust

is rising and settling on every inch

of grass and skin, when the brief 

candle flickers, don’t keep it.

 

Tell us, tell us how we aren’t alone.

 

Honorable mention Comstock Review contest, Fall/Winter 2016

DNA

DNA

I spat into the tube and sent it off

and now I know:  I descended from a

crabapple tree. A nettle by the river

was my grandfather, but the oak I call

Grandmother is not an ancestor at all.

The snapping turtle I moved from the road,

the wolf spider I met in the garden

scurrying away with her white egg ball,

are second cousins. I am part fox, stillness

on the edge of the meadow. I am part

owl, passing on silent wings. I am thrice

removed from an otter, four times from a deer.

Catbird is my brother—I knew it all along.

We sing the same cobbled-together song.

ORDINARY BIRDS

A few years old.

 

ORDINARY BIRDS

Go early, our friends told us,

just before sunrise, when the light

above the mountains is a pink line

that slowly turns yellow, then gold,

and the sun sends up a long pale pillar.

Then the geese will rise, calling,

against the sky.

You can hear the whisper of their wings.

 

We went to see the geese,

early,  Orion and the waning sickle moon

still in the deep blue sky.  We heard

very far away, the geese muttering

in a low wet place, waiting for dawn.

The sky turned pink, and the sun

sent up its shaft of light, and the gray

clouds thickened and the light

shut down.  We stood in the shelter

 

against the south wind.  The geese

we came to see did not rise.

Overhead in the rafters,  little birds

were waking:  a grackle, house sparrows,

one young brown cowbird.  They shook

themselves, preened their feathers,

murmured their unthrilling music–

ordinary birds, plain birds,

in the gray morning,

waking one by one.

 

published in Penwood Review, Fall, 2008

EVERY CORNCRAKE COUNTS

This is the first poem I “found,” back in 1992.  It is all printed in a little brochure I picked up in Ireland, describing how to conserve the Corncrake, a bird that nests in what we call hayfields.

 

Every Corncrake Counts

a found poem

A number of factors affecting Corncrakes:

loss of long vegetation along hedgerows,

drainage of small marsh areas

where reeds, white-grass and flag iris provide early cover,

more closely grazed pasture,

marginal land going out of production.

Rotary cutters cut very close to the ground.

 

Any species attempting to nest

on the ground in a hay meadow is at risk.

 

Cutting from the headlands towards the centre kills birds.

Chicks in particular are reluctant to cross mown ground

where they are at risk from predators like hooded crows,

tend to stay in long grass where they are often killed

when the last swathes at the centre of the field are cut.

 

When a Corncrake loses a clutch

–for example in a silage field–but survives herself,

she will lay again often in a hay meadow

which may also be cut before the eggs hatch.

In this way, a female may lay three of four clutches

but succeed in hatching few or no chicks.

 

Listen for Corncrakes on your land.

Listen for their calling at night.

 

The male Corncrake usually calls from the same spot.

You may be able to work out which field the nest is in.

If you have a Corncrake on your land

leave areas of rough vegetation on the farm uncut.

Marshy corners, patches of flag iris and nettles

all provide suitable early nest sites.

Ensure that the headlands have taller grass than the rest of the field

when the Corncrakes arrive.

 

With a little care and patience, fields can be cut  in a way

that will drive Corncrake adults and chicks

to the safety of the field margins.

It will be necessary to work the field

in an anti-clockwise direction.

Headlands at the field ends are cut first

to provide a turning circle.

Leave a swathe uncut in the headlands.

 

Cut the field slowly.

Speed kills, and is not vital

 

 

From  “Every Corncrake Counts,” an Irish Wildbird Conservancy pamphlet

written by Eleanor Mayes