National Poetry Writing Month
A Herald from the Tundra :
The muddy field,
Once covered in the spring-summer prospects of
Farmers and tulip growers,
Now seems to cultivate a strange
Canadian organism from the north:
An undulating sea of geese,
White as the snow of their namesake,
Seeming to sway to a rhythm
Independent from the intense wind
And pelting rain.
A lake of white, occasionally
Breaking formation to let some trickle away,
Others to join,
Merely drops in this ocean of life,
Transplanting a bit of Canadian tundra
To this brown, gray, brown region
Of the Pacific Northwest.
A lone eagle suddenly interjects,
Its singular figure rising from the ground,
And the field erupts,
A coterie of organized chaos
In mesmerizing patterns,
Panicked honks and screams
Permeating the air, seemingly more a
Physical wall than an auditory one.
And slowly the whole group rises,
Bringing their slice
Of tundra to another place on this
Northern Washington island.
Gods of the Andean Sky
An enormous mass of hollow bones,
daggerish beak and talons,
thick black feathers, glistening like the varnished hull
of a mighty zeppelin.
Their wingbeats seem to shake the air,
massive impulses on the
atmosphere that lift their
bodies to stratospheric heights.
Of all of the familiar sights of circling hawks,
eagles, and vultures, like a whirlpool
rising on invisible currents,
Condors place but a fraction to
moving their colossal wingspan:
A single percent of their flight time,
when taking off and near the ground.
Smaller species fly in frantic bursts;
songbirds flit up and down,
thrushes rise and fall rhythmically,
hawks and falcons power through the air like
jackhammers through concrete.
They betray the difficulty, the impossibility
of fighting gravity, lifting themselves
against the force of an entire planet.
The condor need not stoop to such a level,
breaking free of gravity with a few wingbeats to then sail,
unimpeded by the might of the earth.
It is not difficult to imagine where such legends of
thunderbirds, feathered serpents, and avian gods arose;
with the serenity of a cloud,
such monstrous beasts float across the terrain,
their majesty and leisure fitting of a god of the sky.
An Odd Hunter
A serpentine neck atop a rotund body
Of muddy browns, dry-grass tans,
And foggy whites,
Slowly sways back and forth,
Up and down.
Oblivious, or perhaps uncaring,
To the ogling of a nearby human observer
goofy behavior --
As it slowly trots through the water,
One carefully placed foot
following the other, leaving barely a trace,
Gliding as if filled with helium.
I remain simultaneously awed, perturbed, and
by its capacity to swallow rodents whole,
Despite its appearance as a bowling pin atop a ball,
The tall grasses as lane dividers as it slowly
weaves through and about them.
The odd hunter
stands on the moistened edge of a
Slough, uncaring of the unsuspecting jury
just a few dozen feet away,
As it carefully eyes its prize in the water:
A silvery arrow, sitting placidly unaware
Of the threat above it, a set of
Poised to strike.
A sudden lunge
A quick kill and quicker ingestion
And the hunt is complete,
Its onlooker stunned with
finger just let off the shutter button.
American kestrel on Fir Island, Washington
I am at wit’s end.
My father seems to be as well.
We try again,
And I miss. Again.
The two of us are in our silver SUV as I beg my camera to bend to my demands (again)
And curse the keenness of this American kestrel
Clad in yellowed whites, rufous reds, faded blues
As it deftly avoids our gaze on the flanking power lines
Of an oft-traveled 50 mile-per-hour road.
Disgruntled, I exit the car,
And get in the backseat,
Following the bird as it jumps from line to line.
My father pulls the SUV back onto the road again,
And I line up the shot, again,
And I miss. Again.
We peel off the main road.
I don a camo jacket, hoping that this kestrel will stay long enough
For me to catch even a hint of its regal appearance.
As I get closer, balancing atop a mound of discarded greenery,
The bird nothing but an outline in the halo of the all-too-exposed sun,
I try, and try.
It turns its head to squint at me
and it leaves, off into the distance,
my eyes tracking it in place of the camera that I barely have the skills to handle.
I had missed again,
Left to look for my next chance.
A lone speck catches my eye,
A bulb sprouted from
A spindly limb of an oft-passed tree,
The hummingbird sits, a totem
Glued to the leafless branch, so
small as to be mistaken as a flower bud, a
bundle of color in the bland
gray of the twilight before
the dawn of a spring infested with disease.
Watching inquisitively as this supposed flower bulb
subtly buzzes and chips
With slight flicks of its needlish beak.
darting against the
blinding white-gray sky,
Weaving like a leaf
riding a trickling stream
into the sea
of twigs and nascent leaves.
I trace the flitting figure wondrously,
Then continue walking, passing the tree
to my next class.
As I enter the building, I mentally write
On my list of priorities
A stocky buteo greets me as I crest the asphalt-laden hill.
A raptor with basalt-black talons,
Creamy chest with maple-brown speckles,
Brick-red tail terminating a messy brown backside,
Golden yellow eyes tracing my movement.
As I bring the matte black camera to my glassed eye --
skin warmed by the rays of the reddening sun
filtering through the branches and needles of the encroaching evergreen forests--
the windswept hawk cocks its head,
perhaps pondering as to the peculiar nature of this human child.
And it takes off,
Solid as the foundation it offers to my ongoing quest.
The fourth of July, and I am pleased.
I proudly scroll through my bounty
Of the day in the back seat of
Our rental car, near a thousand
Digital files that fill my screen
With the likeness of dozens of
Avian subjects, miracles
Of an accidental sea in
The middle of an otherwise-
Ceaseless ocean of sand and dust.
Of them, seven burrowing owls,
Crouched on the edges of ditches,
Hunkered in front of their den, right
Next to a billowing geo-
Thermal plant, a tribute to their
survival in the harsh climate,
And equally harsh humanity.
Independence Day fireworks
Spark sky-borne blossoms, bursts of light
Over a parched desert, seeming
To hang in the dry night air, no
Buildings, trees, or alternative
Disruptions to their short-lived flights.
The eighth owl suddenly crosses,
Momentarily lighting our
Eyes as it intercepts the high
Lights of our bone-white rental car,
Slow enough to identify,
Fast enough to forbid an
Acceptable reaction. The
Owl hits the bumper, falls limp to
The ground. I solemnly lower
The weighty camera. I had
Completed one American
pastime, steeped in love for nature.
And yet, I left the desert one
soul fewer than when I arrived.
A winding river,
a strip of water permeating a land
named in honor of si'áb Si’ahl,
long since tamed
to fuel the industrious dreams
of businessmen, entrepreneurs,
building craft to take to the sky.
A flattened roadway to the Puget,
fueling pathways to the air.
The irony in the pollution,
destruction, decades of dumping industrial waste
into the land’s superior vein, this marine city’s
only river, the single aquatic highway
bringing sub-metropolitan shipping,
from inland to the rest of the world,
a singular industrialized estuary,
a doorway to the Pacific and relevancy,
a reminder of the lengths by which we go to pursue
a more efficient way to make coin,
heed only paid to the folk
who used it – lived off it, were its namesakes –
an afterthought as
their villages were burnt
and final residents left to starve
in the early-century winter of a tiny island,
witness to the becomings
of an aviation giant.
I am the unseen fiber,
lacing the forest floor with highways of hyphae,
intertwining the soil with
strands of sinuous cords,
A mile-long staff of fibrous notes.
I am but a part of a network
of tissues and dirt,
A world with the complexity
of a neuronic brain. I possess no leading role,
no resounding solo.
I am a razor-thin rope in a net of living nylon,
yet altogether we create
A polyphonic chorus,
a nebula of life.
Fans whir with dry fatigue,
Circulating cold desert air,
Like a conveyor belt continually adding
New lengths of rubber,
replacing sections worn by
Usage, people, and time.
The lights put out a warm yellow,
Painting the walls with lukewarm
Colors, the plaster-white coat
Covered in a homely glow.
A tap runs in the room next-door,
A hum emanating from the walls,
Permeating the structure,
Filling the air with ambient noise.
A liminal space, a crossing over,
With the whirring of desert air through
rejuvenating fans; rushing water through
Silverish pipes; warm yellow
Light bathing the walls, furniture,
And inhabitants. A place unremarkably homely,
Yet unwaveringly Different.
Amorphous, supercooled, solid.
America’s national monuments
are contained within,
Like artifacts trapped in time.
I gaze upward from my low vantage point.
The seal of the White House floats midair.
The texture is a cross between frost and sand,
Like a cloud of ice and dust formed two circles and an eagle.
Just below, I gape at the Washington Monument,
An obelisk surrounded by flags.
I turn to look around me, and find myself surrounded.
The Lincoln Memorial, The Capitol, Vietnam.
I look down and see the American Flag,
Bright reds and deep blues blaring through the monochrome world of the glass paperweight.
I look toward the White House,
And see the corner.
The glass paperweight is beginning to crack.
With the sun above,
Beaming down, uninterrupted,
A straight path onto the land below,
The forest stands, still.
The browned leaves of autumn dust the ground,
Hesitant to rot in the early spring air
That so teems with life
Even in absence of green.
The rolling hills remain dull brown,
Winter-season vegetation in stark contrast
With the infinite blues and unceasing sun.
The naked branches sway in the wind,
In limbo between dying, death, and life.
Northeast forests revisited
The golden hour arrives,
Sunlight streaming through great lengths of atmosphere,
As the barren branches
Make ample room for the shining rays.
Beams of honey bleed through miles of wood,
Casting lengthy shadows,
Angled and stilted as haphazardly as
The dead leaves litter the forest floor.
Speeding along at highway speeds,
Shining fingers reach in,
Glossing over with rapid pace,
Flickering like a flame
At the end of a long spring day.
Northeastern forests, epilogue
The day closes,
lights leaving even for those residents
of the highest hills.
The forest, deprived of sunlight
sits, calms into the darkening night,
animal life either settling in
or waking to a new world.
In the moonless, clouded night,
the first leaf bud forms.
Lanky water-susceptible fishing bird,
Sits atop a tree in
the midst of a swamp –
Water a faithful blue-green
With silverish reflections across its rippling surface –
Surrounded to one side by endless agriculture
And to the other by high-rise –
Humanities newest claims to the land,
Rotting thirty-year-old public housing
Next to billionaires’ newest
Tall glass facades –
The bird and its home remains,
A patch of blue, brown, and green in protest
Of their invaders, subject to the whim of
Politicians, businessmen, and
Saved only by the few who care enough to fight.
Its slim, tree-bark brown wings stretch out
Toward the hazed sun,
Orange bill slanted upwards in seeming protest.
Yet it stands,
It with its mate and single chalky egg
Placed with care in a nest made of
Built atop a mysterious, plentiful foundation:
A muddied, bent, beaten,
Plastic bottle of Sprite.
Dotting the streets, in various forms of disarray.
Black, blue, white;
The oldest sit in closets,
Pantries, stored for the next surge,
Or hung up to “save” for the newest, most infectious strain.
They inhabit every living space –
First house exits, then public entrances,
Then cars, then pantries for long-term storage,
Then coat pockets,
Then back pockets,
Then the bedroom,
Then the bathroom –
And spill into the streets,
Stomped into the ground and soaked
With days, weeks, months, now years of neglect
As the pandemic rages on
And machines pump out more to match demand
As the world settle into a new normal,
And one more robust industry gains permanence
In our economy, life,
8th Owl revisited (haiku)
rockets across the ground, but
comes to a dead stop
The clouds sit heavy
above the bay, trees, and pebbles.
The wooden platform holding dozens of separate humans,
tapping with booted, shoed, feet,
rocking slightly in the undulating waves of the earth.
The light stays low, dreary, moody in the low clouds.
The birds flit between trees against the gray-white clouds.
And the sun, hidden behind water vapor,
shines down on a white paradise, hiding
a wetter, greener, bluer one.
Circling the azure blue skies,
dotting it with dark browns and blacks
of long feathers, scaly legs,
fleshy bald heads.
Uncommon in the northwestern skies,
found only in the desert east,
making news among those circles fortunate enough
to witness their broad wings in the skies,
majestic as if they were the wind itself.
And yet here, in the skies above the northeast,
they become as common as the next,
single individuals as common as road markers
as we travel west to east, south to north,
or groups of four above an equestrian camp,
we can only begin to think:
"how awfully commonplace you are"
Bringing in the daylight
the new sun sits behind the clouds,
a muted day once more in the Pacific Northwest.
Yet another cloudy day.
The day before brought out the sun, a deep blue
emblazoned across the sky,
embedded into the retinas
of tired eyes.
A flaming crest of deep red,
black and white stripes lining
a triangular head atop
a stocky body.
Its feathered body braced vertically
against a hollowed, rotting tree,
the wood breaking away as if styrofoam.
The soft drilling noises bounce through the forest.
And reach the ears of one watcher,
intently viewing through the bent glass of a
large matte black camera.
The morning sun is still a ways off.
the moon would be out
and a screen glows blue and white
as the student makes final additions to an unfinished paper.
Perhaps working diligently, perhaps not
but toiling into the unholy hours,
lit by the low LCDs of a small monitor,
surely there are better ways
to spend a Sunday morning.
Perhaps a bit of a meaningless term,
something that happens every perceivable moment
and even more common, disposable
when a few clicks and button depressions
may create the next Big Thing,
the one to shake the world.
Or perhaps, sit, unnoticed in the annals of the largest repository ever devised,
seen only by the eyes of one.
Salton Sea Trip
We sit in an air-conditioned car,
stark white paint with the light brown of the desert
streaking across its tires, sides.
The desert remains, peaceful, surrounded
by low, sloping mountains covered in beige shrubbery and
populated by the denizens that
refuse to come out
with the sun hanging high in the air,
beaming down with oppressive glee
in the airy blue, whispy-clouded
The oven-air, pressing down with
hangs throughout the air.
Once at its zenith, the sun
starts its onerous descent.
Light streaks through the checkered sky,
bright sun creating pockets of saturated blues,
separated by thick bundles of rain pouring down
with unrepentant excitement as they scatter
the long-fingered hands of the sun,
blanketing the green-coated,
wrinkled landscape of Kaua'i
in long bows of multicolored rain.
A box of wood sits
unremarkable in a shallow ravine.
assembled in a factory,
modified with cardboard, screws, and care,
it sits, just too late in the season,
waiting a tardy tenant.
The Boat Seen During A Bird Collision Survey
mother of the environment movement,
who sacrificed so to indict the pesticide industry,
so intent on ruining the woman
who sought to bring their poisons
to justice, to
save lives humans and avian alike.
In bird-loving Seattle,
her legacy sits in the minds of two passer-bys,
pointing and gawking at a docked yacht.
Bird Box Has Been Installed After A Year of Delay
The bird box, screwed on
to a tree, unattended.
fur covers the floor.
I sit in front of my computer,
hands hovering above the keyboard,
an oval-shaped spot polished to a sheen
on the space key, from incessant clicking,
textured letter keys smoothed
to a uniform plastic,
unsure what to write, again.
What new idea to jot down,
Thanks for reading
I watch the map,
gray on gray,
a humble reminder of the tiny space
I take on the largest information center
And yet, with my tiny audience
all drawn in over a few weeks,
fifteen random users from across the world
(Mumbai, Seattle, Montreal, Albion)
all gathered to click on this link
to the ramblings of one anonymous teenager