Poetry Month #24: Sandhill Cranes Pantoum by Ursula Moeller

One of the most read poems on the blog–Poetry Month #24

Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond

Sandhill Cranes, Bosque del Apache

Orion overhead, nature’s cycles,
our sunrise breath hangs smoking
frozen silhouettes reflect in water
like Japanese painting strokes

our sunrise breath hangs smoking
shrill crane’s ancient honking
like Japanese painting strokes
karoo karoo greets a newborn day

crane’s ancient honking in minor key
night-frost crystals encrust
karoo karoo greets a newborn day
gangly stiff knees bend backwards

night-frost crystals encrust
like mine of a sometime morning
cold stiff knees bend backwards
legs slender as lakeside sedges

sometimes like mine of a morning
limbs barely support feather bustle
legs slender as lakeside sedges
red-capped cranes mate for life

limbs barely support feather bustle
daily quest for winter’s food
red-capped cranes mate for life
coyote lurks behind tamarisk

daily quest for winter’s food
undulating necklace pink at dawn
coyote lurks behind tamarisk
wingbeats whistle, necks extend

crane-necklace undulates, pink at dawn
silhouettes overhead reflect in water

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Monday Poem: why can’t i by Sophie Sagan-Gutherz

why can’t i

you ask:
when do birds fly
all alone?

i ask:
how do birds

how can they still
beat their tired wings?

how do they maintain
and decisively head

i barely
can jog for
more than five

i barely
can talk to
you in a stupid suburb Starbucks for
more than five

once a bird told me
“stop calling my pills
it sounds too close to

do birds take
do birds feel like they’re

it must be so exhausting to always fly away
it must be so lucky to always fly away

Two Bird Poems by Marsha Mathews

I don’t usually post notes to accompany poems, but these were of real interest. And I know the readership of this blog is interested in process, as evinced by the lively discussion of revision on “White Nights.” Let me encourage contributors o send work with explanations or questions of writing process.


                                                Driven by cancer’s dark-winged threat,
                                                she finds her way to a forbidden shore
                                                where thousands of seabirds
                                                nest in the underbrush.
                                                This time, it’s the human
                                                who’s out of place —
                                                no highways or high-rises, here.
                                                Only scrub palm & sea oats
                                                & the calls of a thousand gulls.
                                                Here death seems a natural thing:
                                                cartilage, sand, & eggshell — one,
                                                she can almost forget
                                                the cool tubular stuff of hospitals.
                                                On the beach
                                                shipwrecked memories wash jagged rocks.
                                                A white-faced pelican swoops down,
                                                its pouch a loose-skinned rumple.
                                                On fat webbed feet, it flip-flaps
                                                up to her. She strokes its wing,
                                                pallid but warm
                                                against her open hand.
1 in 3: Women with Cancer Confront an Epidemic    (Cleis Pres)

Pygmalion’s Song
                                                            St. Pete Beach, Florida
                                      Every evening at eight,
                                      the heron
                                                swoops & soars
                                      through pink-streaked sky,
                                      a silver sheath—
                                      futuristic, majestic, prehistoric: one—
                                      On spindly legs,
                                      lands light
                                      among tall grass & prickly pear,
                                      blends into willowy sea oats,
                                      Only to appear
                                      again beside a pool
                                      where a stone heron waits.
                                      One lack leg tucked,
                                      he stands
                                      eye fixed to painted eye
                                      so still so long, he seems himself a statue.
                                      Huge, seven feet tall, paint-chipped,
                                      legs & tail merging into basin.
                                      Content? Complete?
                                      Or is it in the wait
                                      we rise?
                                      Water trickles beak to breast,
                                      tap-taps ivory pebbles,
                                      swirls free
“Pygmalion’s Song.” Zeus Seduces the Wicked Stepmother in the Saloon of the Gingerbread
            House: Myth, Fairy Tale & Legend for the 21st Century. Ed. Susan Richardson. Boise,
            ID: Winterhawk, 2008. 22-23. Print.  ISBN: 978-0-615-19969-6
“Pygmalion’s Song” alludes to Ovid’s story of the sculptor who fell in love with his own creation, having carved a beautiful woman from ivory. I watched a blue heron at my sister’s house in Florida stare at a statue without moving for several hours, and voila, the poem! “Pygmalion’s Song” first appeared in Zeus Seduces the Wicked Stepmother in the Saloon of the Ginerbread House:  Myth, Fairy Tale, & Legend for the 21st Century (Winterhawk Press).
 “Sanctuary” portrays a woman fed up with medical treatment and hospitals who makes peace with death on a rare spot of pristine Florida coastline when a pelican approaches her. This poem was first published in 1 in 3: Women with Cancer Confront an Epidemic (Cleis Press).

Marsha Mathews is an Associate Professor of English at Dalton State College, GA.

My cockatiel got out by Sean Lause

My cockatiel got out.
I was cleaning the living room window
and she shot out free in an arrow of light.
I ran after her,
knowing her innocence unprepared
for the rough local birds,
those packs of scamps and nest-thieving thugs,
those reckless rags of wind and wing
whirled round by the elements
would gleefully shred that slight drop of yellow,
my slender perfection of bird.
I spotted her.
Just a mark in a distant elm
like an afterthought inscribed there
by a painter’s thumbnail.
She was surrounded by crows calling their hate
in cries that shredded the blue air.
I climbed, reaching and reaching.
In my loneliness I forgot my name
for a moment.
My heart fluttered and cried before words would come.
Then she cried out.
For me?  For the moon to appear?
In awe at a world with curves and no metal bars?
She flew to another branch, that taunt with wings.
I cursed her through tears and climbed and climbed,
reaching for the shiver of sun that was her new home.
She tilted her head and chirped a
then a
And then, as if surrendering all that is loved
to loss, she fluttered into my palm
as light as a sleeping child’s breathing.
As I ran home I clutched her to my heart,
feeling her heart beating in rhythm
to love and hate, love and hate.

Sean Lause “I teach courses in Shakespeare, Literature and the Holocaust and Medical Ethics at Rhodes State College in Lima, Ohio. My work has appeared in The Minnesota Review, The Alaska Quarterly, Poetry International, The Xavier Review, Another Chicago Magazine and The Beloit Poetry Journal.”


3 Bird Poems by Cherise Wyneken

“A bird in hand is worth two in a bush.”  *
Mama sent me to the fields
to pick berries for a pie.
Misty clouds hung above the patch
and made it hard to see.
I reached into the thicket
pricked my fingers on the thorns
like a needle when I sew.
I felt a presence near my face
and heard the whir of wings –
a humming bird, fluttering at my side.
Clusters of berries lured me deeper
but the bird at hand was worth more.
*  Pegasus  Fall 2004
 Back Yard Wake Up
Roiling through
the Golden Gate
Pacific clouds
overcast the morning sky,
deadening day.
Beyond the weathered fence
our neighbor’s
tall thick Liquid Amber
sparkles smiles
from its living leaves
and illumes the dull grey gloom,
ready to explode
when the sun breaks through.
It calls me out to see
the flowers sing
in tones of purple, pink, and red
and to sprinkle wilting roses
with the new green hose.
I hear the water tapping
at earth’s thirsty door
and the whir of wings –
a hummingbird
hovering inches from my face.
All creation
speaks to me in tongues.
 Morning Ablutions
Looking out the window
I see a rainbow:  red, purple, blue,
and brilliant magenta flowers. 
A comforter of new mown grass
spreads a thick green blanket
across the bed of yard.
Trees – beyond the wooden fence
are tipped in golden hues – halos 
from the rising sun.
Perched on the deck rail
sits the rusty bird bath where
one by one, by two and three
California towhees appear
for a morning dip.  They settle
at the rim, looking warily around –
school girls too shy to be exposed.
Once in the water
they lose all sense of self
duck and flap their wings in joy.
Some wait in the treetops for a turn,
fly across the yard, stake a claim,
and splatter. 
By noon the bath is empty
and the deck planks of my heart
are soaked.


For more about Cherise Wyneken, see her blog and poetry column.