Gerald Friedman: “A Race of the Red-tailed Hawk”

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A Race of the Red-tailed Hawk 

Audubon shot a hawk,
mostly black-brown.  Painting it
while it still lived, he said,
he chocolate-covered its white marks,
tidied its tail pattern,
not thinking both were typical.
He wrote tall stories:
his specimen bred in Louisiana,
feared him only when he carried his gun.
He baptized it in Latin
after his friend Dr. Harlan;
in English, “Black Warrior”,
maybe something good to have
dying or dead
to be depicted as he saw fit.

Morning frost by the Rio Grande.
All summer Harlan’s, black or rare white,
glided down from Alaska
in my mind.  Now
a red-tail screams. At me?
I sneak, a commando,
to capture it with my camera,
barely disturbing
fragile cottonwood leaves.
By some occult sense
it feels me, flies, straight
as limbs slip by.  Out of view.
But I’ll call it a Harlan’s,
tail white constellated in black.
A stereotypical birdwatcher,
I’m already checking my pictures.
One shot caught that tail,
so I’ll get an accepted sighting.

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About the Author: Gerald Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and now teaches physics in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  He has published poetry in various magazines, recently Rat’s Ass Review, Entropy, The Daily Drunk, and Better Than Starbucks.

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Image Credit: Plate 86 of Birds of America by John James Audubon depicting “Black Warrior Falco harlani” Public Domain

Lorraine Henrie Lins: “Pelican”

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Pelican  

I see it
just as he catches its scent.
He drops the tennis ball
and I know
by the distant shape it’s a bird,  a
large one left by this morning’s tide.

The dog
stills his body and tail
and I expect him to paw it,
test it
with his teeth as he does
with fish heads,
driftwood, crab shells—

instead,
he leans forward,
snuffles its parted, flat eyes
and hovers
whisker-close over the tangled
feathers and tide-kinked wings,
elongated in a mid-flight mien,

lingers
the length of its body
and breathes in the brine-cleaned
wound on its neck and sits.
I re-clip his leash,
give short leading tugs
but again he stills, pulls
against the command
and waits.

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About the Author: Lorraine Henrie Lins is a Pennsylvania county Poet Laureate and author of four books of poetry: All the Stars Blown to One Side of The Sky, I Called It Swimming, Delaying Balance and most recently, 100 Tipton.  She serves as the Director of New and Emerging Poets with Tekpoet and is a founding member of the “No River Twice” improvisational poetry troupe.  Lins’ work appears in wide variety of familiar publications and collections, as well as on a small graffiti poster in New Zealand. Born and raised in the suburbs of Central New Jersey, the self-professed Jersey Girl now resides along the coast of North Carolina.  www.LorraineHenrieLins.com

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More by Lorraine Henrie Lins:

OST DOG

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Sleeping Pelicans” (2020)

Paul Jones: “Magnificent Frigatebirds”

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Magnificent Frigatebirds

Who loosed these bright red balloons,
these breeze drifting drops of blood,
ripe fruit of mangrove clusters,
regents of the rookeries?
They dive to tease the manatees,
to take aloft flying fish,
to torment both gulls and terns,
to tear apart jellyfish.
We paddle near to their nests.
We can see their fragile legs
counter their broad sail of wings.
Nature seen in such detail
has so much magnificence.
Their height-hidden mysteries
are brought down near earth’s surface,
to the tight bundles of brush
where a fledgling tests his wings.
We can see now that he is
sky hungry. Almost ready.
Hear his beak’s impatient clack?
He will soar but never sing.
To be this close to flying
is what it means to be young.

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About the Author:  Paul Jones has published poetry in many journals including Poetry, Adirondack Review, Red Fez, Broadkill Review and here in As It Ought To Be as well as in cookbooks, in travel anthologies, in collections about passion, love, and in The Best American Erotic Poems: 1800 – Present (from Scribner). Recently, he was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Web Awards. His chapbook is What the Welsh and Chinese Have in Common. A manuscript of his poems crashed on the moon’s surface in 2019. His book, Something Wonderful, is now available from RedHawk Publications (and your favorite bookstore). Also in November 2021, Jones will be inducted into the NC State Computer Science Hall of Fame. Jones is Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers Network and a member of the Carrboro Poets Council.

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More by Paul Jones:

Something Wonderful

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Image Credit: Image from La galerie des oiseaux Paris, Constant-Chantpie,1825-1826. Public domain image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Sarah Carleton: “Buzzards”

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Buzzards

I
On the highest branch of the tallest tree
after the rain, they open their bent-umbrella
wings and claim breezes
till they’re dry enough to puff

and then loom, black-hole sentries
surveying the neighborhood,
consolidating all the world’s shadow
and leaving the light for us.

II
Three vultures grip the top of the fence,
peering at the yard behind ours,
shrunken heads

stuck to a bad smell,
charcoal coats tucked close
like Dickensian funeral directors.

III
The driveway flickers
with hawks and buzzards circling,
waiting for us to leave.

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About the Author: Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, plays the banjo, and makes her husband laugh in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Nimrod, Chattahoochee Review, Tar River Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and New Ohio Review. Her first collection, Notes from the Girl Cave, was published in 2020 by Kelsay Books.

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Image Credit: Image from The birds of North America New York, U.S.A. Published under the auspices of the Natural Science Association of America, 1895, c1888. Public domain image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Dan Overgaard: “Lift”

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Lift

I hear some geese
way high above the house,
and take it as a signal I should
give the weeds a break,
straightening up to watch
their raucous progress
stitching across the sky.

It’s May and they’re heading north,
but their noisy vee seems like
the shake-down run of a new team—
exuberant and slightly ragged,
happily, loudly, running drills,
all that rah-rah energy of a new season.

The lead goose looks back over
his or her wing as if to yell
at the kids on the bus, and veers a little,
doing this. Her wobble’s copied precisely
all the way out the right side of the vee—
and last goose whipsaws, like the last kid
in a game of Crack the Whip.

According to the Scientific American,
scientists still do not agree on how to describe
the basic principles of lift, what keeps
planes in the air. If I spoke Goose I could help
them investigate, but I can see from here
it takes a lot of practice.

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About the Author: Dan Overgaard was born and raised in Thailand. He attended Westmont College, dropped out, moved to Seattle, became a transit operator, then managed transit technology projects and programs. He’s now retired and catching up on reading. His poems have appeared in Santa Clara Review, Sparks of Calliope, Across The Margin, The Galway Review, Shark Reef, Willawaw Journal, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Canary Lit Mag, Allegro Poetry, Triggerfish Critical Review and other journals. Read more at: danovergaard.com.

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More by Dan Overgaard:

Drifting Off

Donations

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Image Credit: Digitally enhanced image from The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands:. London :printed for C. Marsh [etc.]1754. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Ronnie Sirmans: “Cygnus”

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Cygnus

    Homo homini lupus.
    (A man is a wolf to another man.)
                – Latin proverb

We think we are wolves.
I often don’t see the lupine
although I know most of us
can live quite carnivorously.
But the ravenous I admire
comes from the Latin cygnus.
A man is a swan to another man.

Wolves can pull like vicious tides,
while swans push wakes of silence.
Canine hairs scatter like fallen leaves,
while feathers are a welcome snow.
Swans carry a grace of awareness.
Whether ivory or ebony or other hues,
their bodies can iridescently blind us.

A swan is a man is a wolf too.
A man drowned when a swan
protecting his mate overturned
the thin kayak and kept the man
from swimming safely ashore.
Old wives’ tales (and old husbands)
say male swans who are defending
a mate, a nest, or their supposed honor
can break a man’s arm—or his heart.
Swans will hiss. Swans can bite.
You say: but they have no teeth.
Let me tell you, they do, they do.

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About the Author: Ronnie Sirmans is an Atlanta print newspaper digital editor whose poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, Deep South Magazine, Atlanta Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Fathom, and elsewhere.

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More by Ronnie Sirmans:

Sloughing Words

The Word with the Schwa that’s Really a Short U

Remembering the Great Flood in the Frozen Food Aisle

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Image Credit: Digitally enhanced image from A natural history of birds London :Printed for the author, at the College of Physicians in Warwick-Lane,MDCCXLIII-MDCCLI [1743-1751, i.e. 1750-1776?] Public Domain. Image courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Melody Wang: “When I Die, Liken Me to the Sparrow”

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When I Die, Liken Me to the Sparrow

Tread lightly near the clearing in fading
light; there is no telling which plants
contain pure poison nestled in
waxy-smooth petals and stems

Pretend not to notice striated pink-purple flowers
strewn about the forest floor — unsuspecting
creatures pulled from their nesting
place and tossed aside as an afterthought

Seek and find near a clump of irises: the cold
sparrow, cramped on its side, lurid flesh showing
more than it had in life, features oddly twisted and
sleep-softened eyes closed eternally

Revel in the sacred realization that it belongs
to the earth now, requiring neither proper burial
nor the slightest acknowledgment of the fact
that it is no longer among the living

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About the Author: Melody Wang currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband. In her free time, she dabbles in piano composition and also enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs. She is a reader for Sledgehammer Lit and can be found on Twitter @MelodyOfMusings.

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More by Melody Wang:

All that My Mother Cultivates

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Image Credit: Illustration from “Coloured illustrations of British birds, and their eggs” London :G.W. Nickisson,1842-1850. Public Domain. Image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Kerry Trautman: “Context”

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Context
“Different musics respond to knocked-on silences”  –Sarah Gridley

Outside air becomes glass when
Spring’s first red-wing

blackbird shudders its voice
into the chilled void—

the song to be lost
come July with its

humid white-noise
of crickets, honeybees

and cardinals.
My toddler’s

cry of no-no ping-pongs
off midnight bedroom

walls in small eruptions
of panicked confusion,

and just as I wake
enough to step from quilts,

I know already
nothing is there.

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About the Author, Kerry Trautman: I am a poetry editor for Red Fez, and my work has appeared in various anthologies and in journals, including The Fourth River, Gasconade Review, Midwestern Gothic, Paper & Ink, Third Wednesday, and Think Journal. My poetry books are, Things That Come in Boxes (Kingcraft Press 2012,) To Have Hoped (Finishing Line Press 2015,) Artifacts (NightBallet Press 2017,) and To Be Nonchalantly Alive (Kelsay Books 2020.)

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Image Credit: Digital remixing of an illustration from A History of North American Birds. Boston :Little, Brown,1905. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/12887556. Creative Commons License 2.0.

Samuel Prestridge: “Feeder”

 

 

Feeder

Scrabbling colors–birds rioting seed,
a broadcast punctuated
by squirrels
                         as I hand feeders
from limbs, rails, poles, to my short wife.
She fills them, hands them back,
a Saturday task done
for luck, for variegated finches;
dull republican sparrows; blue jays,
braying fundamentalists; and,
this morning, one bald cardinal—
alopecia or a mate’s black
savagery.
                     The morning rhymes
with dirt-roads, years arranging
rearrange the evenings’ crows’
F’koff! F’koff! or hearing one night, two cold
stanzas into a poem that gave me only
two, a fluttering, then silence quilting
the beat before the rasping, bitter
call of the existentialist bird,
pure pique drawn naked
over a cheese grater. 
                                         It cried once,
flew away, never returned,
or at least, I never heard it.
But there’s a resonance, even now,
something in me saying Yes . . . yes, you’re right.  

Sometimes, it’s just like that.     

Not for what we offer, birds come,
not because not offering would keep them
here or away. 
                             Small charities suggest,
suggest, suggest, suggest, each repetition
feting the air thicker, stubbing any move
against an ignorant amazement
that isn’t anything but a lack 
of anything else. 

Once, Fort Worth, I saw Deke Birds fall
from St. Patrick’s cathedral.  Conical lumps
sprouted wings, veered upward inches from smash,
worked air to gabled roof peak
for yet another hurling.
                                                 They didn’t feed as they fell,
weren’t gaudy about it, weren’t attracting mates.
The plunge was itself, the rushing down,
wings clamped to succor a plummet
so intense it seemed a longing,
a sidewalk smack avoided
by a feather’s breadth. 
                                            Dropping,
they sang, their cry, a large tear
drawn upward through a slide whistle.

I don’t know all the birds outside
our window, don’t want to know,
don’t know why, but we feed them,
not for what’s done, but that they’ve come,
that they’re here, and we know as much. 

                It’s not so much a hoping
as a way of living in lieu of.  We do; 
they come.  They’d come, anyway,
but in our doing, we welcome
the scrabbling wings, the hunger
toward which we raise our hands.

 

 

About Samuel Prestridge: I live and work in Athens, Georgia.  I have published articles, poems, essays, and interviews in a wide range of publications, including Literary Imagination, Style, Appalachian Quarterly, Paideuma, Poem, and The Southern Humanities Review.  

 

Image Credit: Illustration from A popular handbook of the birds of the United States and Canada,. Boston,Little, Brown,1903. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Geoffrey Heptonstall: “One for Sorrow, Two for Sorrow”

 

 

ONE FOR SORROW, TWO FOR SORROW

The bird that sings a stolen song 
leaves echoes of another sound 
from a tongue bereft of voice.
‘Pica, pica,’ the magpie cries, 
naming its nature in air.
Joytaker, heartbreaker, 
what it sees it steals 
in glistening desire, 
feathered with wildness 
to plunder the beauty of things.
The joker in a pack of lies, 
it lives on sorrow alone.

 

About the Author: Geoffrey Heptonstall is the author of a novel, Heaven’s Invention [revised paperback edition Black Wolf, 2017] and a collection of poetry, The Rites of Paradise [Cyberwit 2020].

 

Image Credit: Australian Magpie courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library