Excepting the chickadees

I am done with ceremony
with procedure and pomp.
This daily sun-sitting stillness
though, is its own kind of ritual:
filling of the vessel
to watch the birds approach
in ones and twos and threes, cheerful
tumblers through the trees flitting flipping
from branch to branch, then in turns
to prescribed perches on the rim
of the hanging birdbath—sip, glance
sip, glance. My chance to be invisible
an arm’s length away or a just bit more
a little over my head
this leaf-dappled flickered flight
easy as the breeze
and accepting of me

Same Old Story

The devil had me by the throat
that summer—no not by the throat
but yes by the throat or why
could I not sing
or sleep for thinking
he had me by the wrists
these idle hands

Why should you gain the whole world
and forfeit your song? Contentment
elusive as that hummingbird
just there in your stillness
and gone


No wildness here. Fountain, nest-box, feeder—
the pond itself—all man-made. We walk across
the hospital car park, half-empty in summer evening
with its surround of tame plantings, neat
golden daylily mounds, cerise scentless roses
bricks, benches, sidewalk. We can still see the highway
stoplights in their cycles, but ignore the traffic
all faceless humanity; we are only this family of three
and we have come for the swans. We pause
at the prescribed seat, admire them at a distance
with their attendant ducks. Our girl tugs us onward
and the male now sails his wings, drifting close
stern-eyed, closer still, huge and real and fearsome
but here are the young with their mother, pearl-gray
slight, arching their necks, sipping the water
learning majesty, teaching joy in small doses


This Garden

in its first summer, I’m fighting
gravity and grass, plus
the sun so much fiercer in blessing
and insects unforetold

my camouflaging clothes
made for errands, patio-reading
anything but weeding
require constant hitch and catch
on the tiny cartilage of rose-thorns
the ones I can’t see

I’m not looking for much
beyond this silence but I say
next year all the greens go in boxes
next year a promise to myself
to my seedlings

sacrificed to the spirits of wildness
(as far as they go in a finch’s song)
my orderly plans thrown cloudward
with not enough regret

the back of my neck like old leather
even my wrists and feet
brown as long-distant childhood

Sometimes wandering

as a hawk wanders, willful
silence in shadow and sky
though the form is solid—there!
in that bough—you must wait
and wait, grounded
in patience

Would it surprise you
to know the tenuous tether?
What talisman?
What needle’s-eye path
back to hearth?
It bears no explanation

(no bribe or call
but your quiet breath
brings me back)


1. I have been reading Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk. 2. Jenifer is inspiring me with her magical cave poems.


On a day you might be tempted
to question your fortune
(your suburb-life boredom)
they appear near the sunrise:
two ducks in the driveway
incongruous on the concrete
with rose-bush backdrop

they pause, heads together
discussing their discoveries
this day’s opening, possibly

and you’d like to read into it
some symbolic message
from the universe
like the song of robins
outside your window

Marking the edge of one of many circles

They speak their language and we listen
on the train, perhaps or at a café
lulled by the perceived music, drawn on
by one word in a dozen that stirs familiar
our ancient roots. Of course their talk
is as mundane as ours, all the daily needs
to communicate, to demand, make known
the self; but they in their world, we in ours—
messy, but for the moment not burdened
by meaning.


NaPoWriMo Day 25, prompt is to begin with a line from another poem. First line from Mark Jarman’s “Chimney Swifts,” which I discovered in the Bright Wings anthology. I also borrowed the title from Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”

Greening Again

We’re greening all over again
bulbs, birds unceasing, even dogs
having turned the corner on winter, with the trees

I round the trail’s corner, begin
to notice birds in the four-eyed tree, frogs
singing greenly in the reeds, all nature plain-meaning:

bend your head to the tree-sigh of still north-rooted breeze
catch the corner, quick, of golden sun in all this greening


My first-ever san san for NaPoWriMo Day 14.