The swallows

In a corner
of a window
sheltered by
the carport
at my son’s home

a pair of swallows
built a nest

not well

as my son realized
one morning
when he found
a hatchling
naked, new
and dead
on the concrete
floor

the others
seemed safe
in the faulty nest

until the next day
when my boy
found all
the swallow babies
naked, new
so tiny
so dinosauresque
splayed across
the concrete
floor

some still living

and their mother
fluttering over by
the recycling bin
in the corner
crying
trying
to gather
her broken babies

they couldn’t be saved
my boy told me
with a breaking
in his voice

so I buried them
around
the oak
tree

I cannot think
about the ring
of baby birds
there in the ground
among the roots
of the old live oak

instead I stand
under the carport
noting the stillness
of the air

the silence
naked, new
in the absence
of swallows

somewhere out there
a mama
knows how much
she’s lost

like a child
I wonder
if she grieves

I grieve
for her


Baby swallows singing to their mother. Brookhaven National LaboratoryCC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


Sand dollar etheree

Inspired by and dedicated to Margaret Simon, who shared the photo and who’s mourning the loss of her father.

Photo: Kim Douillard

Half
remains
afterward
it is enough
tangible beauty
even in mourning throes
to sense the infinite flows
of life undulating beyond
what the eye can see or hand can hold
where the spirit abides whole, unbroken

Retooled tanka poem

Today Cara Fortey invites teacher-poets to compose tankas for VerseLove on Ethical ELA. A tanka has thirty-one syllables and, in English, is usually arranged in five lines of 5/7/5/7/7. Cara offers the example of Harryette Mullin, who reduced the lines to three, for flexiblity of form. In honor of Mullin’s nature walks captured in tanka, Cara extends this invitation: “Write one or more of your own tankas in the style of Harryette Mullen. Take a walk, literally or imaginatively, and write what comes to you in three lines with 31 syllables.”

Mourning Walk

Last summer when I walked here 
the fallow field at the end of the lane opened up before me
an undulating sea of green

Long before I reached the shimmering expanse
I could feel the mystical, quivering aliveness
in the depths of the grasses

Infinitesimal orchestra, vast insect choir
assembled in its tabernacle, offering lifesong
to all the Earth

Today, I stand here in memoriam
for the field is no more, shorn of its green tresses
its body ravaged by bulldozers

An unseasonably cold wind
whips with knife-shivering emptiness
even doves, high on the power lines, bear silent witness

Collaboration poem

Day 3 of National Poetry Month: for VerseLove at Ethical ELA, Gae Polisner and Lori Landau share poetry they composed via collaboration in a Google Doc as a means of inspiring one another and keeping the poetry flowing. The invitation today is to lift a line, a few words, or theme from a fellow VerseLove poet to create something new.

I lifted the line “Creaking of floor, house settling” from my kindred-spirit-writer-friend, Kim Johnson. She wrote of morning sounds, which include the “tick tick tick” of dog nails on the floor… see how “tick” made its way into my title, not even a conscious connection on my part. I noticed it when I reread her poem.

Time Ticks On

Creaking of floor
house settling
sighing at the close
of another day
shaft of sunlight
on the oak floor
glimmers brightest
just before fading
away

Beyond the window
tree shadows lengthen
across green green grass

I think about walking there
in the cool of the day
pretending 
the shadows
are portals 
where I might fall through

to find you

Tree shadows over green lawn. Horia Varlan.  CC BY 2.0.

*******

I’ve also borrowed a line from Lori, “to find you” – I think the point of inspiration between Lori and Gae, “gone,” has fused to my own Muse this morning. The line intentionally borrowed from Genesis 3:8 is one of my favorites… only now, post-poem, am I realizing how it, too, is connected to “gone.”

Lament and celebration poem

with thanks to Andrew Moore, host of Sunday’s Open Write on Ethical ELA. Andrew challenged teacher-poets to compose around lament plus celebration (these don’t have to be related; this is meant to be exercise in writing freely, in any form). He writes: “My inspiration comes from a distinct lack of good sadness, grief, and lament beside a healthy laugh and looking forward to the changes the future may bring.” The poem can be as light-hearted, silly, or serious as the poet desires.

Here’s where I am today:

Remains

Today, I mourn 
the destruction of trees along my rural byways
the displacement of wildlife
the destruction of Ukraine
the displacement of her people
the systemic demoralization of teachers
the systemic misplacement of trust

Today, I celebrate
the remnants
of trees
wildlife
Ukraine
her people
teachers
trust

Today, I hope
for restoration
in revelation 
and reverence

before all
become revenants

“The Elephant – great destruction.” Public domain. Note the trees, the cities, the elephant all in stages of disappearing … elephants, by the way, symbolize wisdom, memory, prosperity

******

with thanks also to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.

The field

The field at the end of my street
where cotton used to grow
where morning glories of purple and pink
bloomed in tangled profusion
where the autumn sun
burnished the treetops
where myriad insects would chorus
all summer long

is cleared
is being bulldozed
for houses

I will never again see the cotton
stretching out like snow
or the morning glories
rioting in the grass

the trees will be obscured
if they are allowed to remain

and the great insect choir
of quivering magic-sounds
is forever silenced

I cannot imagine how the field
is feeling

but I
am forlorn

Cotton from my lost field

More metaphor dice

My son challenged me to make something with this roll of my metaphor dice: loss, elusive, junkyard.

This is what I have, so far…

Junkyard Loss is Not Elusive 

It is said that imagination
is the junkyard of the brain
where used things lie in limbo
until they are destroyed
taken back by the grass
or called into service again

which is to say
no experience is wasted
only catalogued and stored
in the deep recesses of memory
until the need for it
should arise
in solving a problem
in creating a new thing
in connecting patterns
in different ways of seeing
relating
expressing
understanding

which is to say
that beloved childhood doll
with the cracked face
or the scent of
your father’s shaving cream
or that dog, that dog
that chewed up your best shoes
but slept every night by your side
long ago, so long ago
comes bounding back
for a specific purpose

for there is unseen order
in a junkyard
where used things lie in limbo
until they are called into service again
or destroyed
or taken back
by the grass.