Late Comers

A poem from Nomad’s End, published by Finishing Line Press, 2010.

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What logic is in the spray of water
on our faces as the speed boat takes us to shore
in the late September evening. Our crew
moves along volcanic wreckage—a cast-iron skillet
melted and covering the land with a thick, black sheath.
Retracing Darwin’s steps, we encounter
marine iguanas creeping out of the tide
on inch-legs, sunning the skin of their necks,
as two wide winged albatrosses fence
with long beaks. As they dance, we search
for proof, follow footprints to the cliff
where the balloon-throated frigate bird blooms
in red love. We stumble upon two tortoises
mating in the forest under the ground cover
green and thick with storm-tossed debris.
They sing praise for 200 years of love. They know
what late-comers we are to this world, amateurs
attempting logic, dance, reproduction.
We’re just spectators, ruffling in the leaves,
horsing around, standing hitched
and still on this earth.


We had a family of cardinals nesting in a laurel tree right below the deck. After many discussions about the impracticality of their choice, Eric and I did our best to keep quiet and observe from our deck chairs as mom and dad tended to the eggs. When the babies hatched (only two survived–we’re not sure why) they huddled silently and safely under the protection of mother cardinal. When the rains came last week, we worried about the possible deluge and tried to maneuver the umbrella to shelter them. We couldn’t secure it well enough, but hoped for the best. The babies were beginning to show their feathers, but we worried they were still too young to depart the nest or survive too much rain. The next morning, the nest was empty, and slightly tilted. Mother cardinal chirped anxiously on the railing, and her bright red husband also seemed nervous. I feared that they’d fallen out, but we could find no evidence below. As we inched around to investigate, a small flutter emerged from the laurel and took off toward a nearby branch. Definitely a fledgling, small and awkward, looking for guidance and support from Dad. Eric is sure he saw two–a male and a female. I don’t trust my eyes that much, but I know at least one left the nest successfully. I hope both. A thing with feathers, they say–hope.

Still faithless–first cardinals

Here is my poem “The Uncurtained Window” about another bird experience. The poem won the Phi Kappa Phi poetry prize for Spring 2014. Click here for commentary by Sandra Meeks.

The Uncurtained Window

There are a few ways this could go,
a Rorschach for the faithful—

a settlement for the kind of universe
that will hold believers and unbelievers both
and the bird that has crashed
headlong into the uncurtained window.

The impact was audible;
had the glass been less solid, the shattering
would have left them both in shards.
A spilled bird, downy, red-headed, male.

The leaf bed below seems promising, soft,
cushioned. There is no movement.

Between believing and not believing,
there are five careless minutes in which part of her
has already buried his hollow bones

because she’s done this before, seen mobility
feather away into unanswerable dust,
bent her knees and clasped hands
around wounds that did not heal.

Chipmunks carry on,
a titmouse ignores the fallen.

The litany begins:
Is there a shoebox?
Where is the eye dropper? Scissors to cut
the fine mummy fibers of gauze, a toothpick splint?

Between the time it takes to say I hope
and let us undo these finished wishes,
unnecessary hospitals build their own triage:

a wing unfolds itself from broken,
October breezes puff breath into miniature lungs,
legs hop to a steady tree branch, and flight,
so unbearably faithless, begins anew.


Backwards and Forwards

Happy New Year

Colombian Hummingbird (detail) John James Audubon


After the Ball Drops


Only in winter do you really think
about hummingbirds, especially at new year
when flying backward and forward
and hovering at the mouths of spring flowers
is the only way to make it through the snow.