Advice To A Baby Bird

Food is your first priority,
but there’s danger from above and below.
Remember, each meal could be your last
and the rain that quenches your thirst
will just as easily drown you.

Watch for shadows, but don’t jump at them
lest you waste your hard-won energy
on a Jay instead of a raptor.

Be wary of the cowbird’s eggs
which borrow precious space,
at the expense of your brood.
Be mindful of starlings,
jealous souls with murderous intent.
They’ll kill your young
to make room for their own.

Wind is as deadly to newborn chicks
as stray cats and lawnmowers.

Don’t take time for granted.
You may have a year or three or five,
but remember we are birds,
born to die too soon,
so fly often and with joy.

If you learn the language of the sky
you may survive to perch
on the highest branch of the tallest pine
and rub your beak against
the mountain’s cold spine
only then will you understand
that your life is not small or fleeting,
but as endless as the web
that holds the world together.

The Winter Trail

I’m on the winter trail
plodding forward with aching feet
blinded by sharp sunlight
on endless snow,
alone with my burden.

The lake offers no relief.
Its frozen water mocks my thirst.

Every part of me longs for spring.

I tell myself the lies of the lonely
Imagining that someone, anyone
might slog along with me,
and ease the thick links
of this heavy chain
from my bent shoulders.

By my own reckoning,
my sorrow is so cumbersome,
you will flee from me,

A Soft Lamenting

I hear the cardinals before I see them, loitering in wineberry vines coated white from the evening storm. I wonder if they’re speaking to me, their lilting voices muted by the fresh snow. I count three, moving through my yard like bright fire.

The sky lightens as I push piles of snow from the platform feeder and replenish the seed. When I walk away, the birds come. Their chatter ripples through the trees, a gentle wave.

I’ll name them all before I go inside, letting them know I see them, telling them to take the proffered food.

Dark eyed juncos (my little penguins), house finches, mourning doves, blue jays, one hairy woodpecker and one downy, white-throated sparrows with their sweet, plaintive song, the Carolina wren who loves the suet, a passing flock of red-winged blackbirds (easily startled), black-capped chickadees (small and bold).

Yesterday, a sharp-shinned hawk perched outside my window, its fierce eyes trained on the sparrows. As I watched, it let out a lonely, piercing cry that I’m sure was meant for me.


I only want to watch the birds
as they flock to the feeders,
a wave of feathers and sleek bodies
vying for a spot.

At noon the finches fill up my porch
with possibility–
dropping down like strange leaves
breathing in the cold air,
living motion.

As winter beats against them,
they flock–
keeping warm with expanded feathers
shaking the dew from their backs
glowing with the challenge of survival.

The birds are impervious to tragedy
but they must know loss,
they must–
On the glittering snow
the mourning doves cluster
to dig for the seed that falls
and their round bodies
melt the surface of my frozen yard.

A Long Time Ago

I dreamed of hummingbirds
and a field of flowers
painting the yard behind my house
Purple and pink and white
But when I woke, the ground still clung to winter,
and there were no hummingbirds
drifting through naked branches.

If I close my eyes I can see their wings,
a blur of busy motion, lost between worlds,
hovering on threads of time and space
carrying souls to the other place.

Out of mist and early morning light
when sunrise is a heartbeat away,
when night fades like the end of sleep,
I might see them
suspended above the trumpet vine
and sweet honeysuckle.


Birth and Death

We aren’t born alone
we enter the world
slipping into gloved hands
between wet thighs
wrapped in the soft cotton
of hospital blankets
placed within the waiting arms
of exhausted mothers
who would do it all over again
and we feel this,
the cushion of protection
an anchor in a dark world.
It may be our soul’s purpose
to experience love
to have bodies that bleed and shiver
to know the bliss of touch
against skin that folds itself
around our spirit
but we must die alone
even children, even babies
as our our mothers’ hands grasp
and pray
and plead
Death pulls children down
it has no bias,
no sense of justice or tragedy
Death becomes like days, months,
autumn moons
a thing of heavy reality
Mothers can’t thwart it
love isn’t enough
and so we must go alone
into the dark


12 Weeks

When I crested that hill,
rounding the bend on Route 32
a known road, a familiar road
it happened…
The curves and bends were foreign
as I spend towards home
uncertain, disoriented
the road became unfamiliar,
my brain waiting for it to click in place
where I was, who I was,
the purpose of my journey.
I found my footing
as I coasted to a stop
at that same traffic light in Rosendale
I’ve been stopping at for a decade.
But the fear lingered like a fine mist,
a cloud of agonizing reality.
We’ve always been four,
like the solid directions;
north, south, east, west,
stable and strong,
and now we’re teetering,
balanced on three legs,
a tripod of grief.
Even the landmarks can’t save me
their familiar shapes are ominous
as I wander among them ,
trying to find my place
without the fourth direction.
I’m so afraid of getting lost
but I’m already lost
there’s no finding my way
until I find you.


19 Weeks

Time is as transient as air, as breath
It’s useless to keep tracking it
You may as well have died yesterday
or 100 years from now
or never.
I want to believe you’re talking to me
the skeptics are wrong
mediums can channel the dead
I wish I had that gift
I would give anything
to feel you near me
Wanting is the worst thing I can do

11 Weeks

I’m floating in a vacuum
resisting the gravity of real life
drifting, not caring about seasons
or passing days
I don’t understand these things
I have more in common with the dead.
The veil lifted and I’m stuck
seeing things for what they really are
seeing myself as dust, a flicker
in an endless arc of light
and I don’t care
I really don’t
My ego evaporated
I don’t want joy
I don’t want to leave a mark
I want to melt away
to unbecome
there’s no relief from my life
oh god, this life
I don’t care
I have no more illusions about today
and the goldfinches,
those bright fingers of yellow
pointing out the joy, the now
They’re not for me.


Observed along the country road,
a bed of russet leaves
beneath the drift and spin of autumn
foreshadowed by an ancient Yew,
its needles green as midsummer
Watching the season so keenly,
Studying the daylight shrink,
October dances toward its finale.
I’m counting on the conifers
to foliate the coming days
while cardinals, like crimson gems,
perch, ornamental, on winter’s doorstep