YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

June 2007

VOL XV, Issue 6, Number 170

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken

Production Editor: Heather Ferguson

European Editor: Mois Benarroch

Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter

Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena

ISSN 1480-6401


Remembering the Flight of Wingless Birds ... And Other Possibilities

Poems by




   Fence Posts	
   Highway 70, South to Sacramento	
   On a Glimpse of a Nuttall's Woodpecker, in the Front Yard, Early This Spring	
   Two Mallards	
   Ferruginous Hawks: Black Pine Valley ID	
   Hawk II	
   Red-Winged Blackbirds	
   Red-Tailed Hawk	
   Frost's Crow, Reappearing	
   Crow Cotillion	
   13 Vultures	
   Crow, Dead Rat, and Road	
   Harvest Crows	
   Where the White Crow Flies	
   Sightings: Pelicans	
   Sightings: Seagulls	
   Elegy for a Swallow	
   Swallows II	
   Malibu CA	
   Tinnitus Monody	
   Dove or Gull or Crow	
   Hawk I	
   Kings of the Air	
   Payson Eagle I	
   Despair is an Eagle	
   Payson Eagle II	
   Elemental Sonet XVIII: Eagle	
   Apollo as an Eagle: Quasimodo from the Cathedral's Pinnacles	
   Electric Eagle	
   The Nestlings	
   Nestling I	
   Nestlings II	
   Nestlings III	
   Nestling IV	
   The Pigeon Woman in Cooley Park	
   Remembering the Flight of Wingless Birds	


   Biographical and bibliographical information


Some poems in this collection have appeared, often in substantially different 
forms, in the following: Cool Bird Poems: An E-anthology of Avian Poems, 
edited by Tom Gannon (online); Expressionists (Pepperdine University); 
Growing Up West, by Michael R. Collings; Matrix: Poems, by Michael R. Collings 
(White Crow Press); Maverick (online); Poet Magazine; "Poetry Corner" of the 
Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club (online); Ygdrasil: A Journal of the Poetic Arts, 
edited by Klaus Gerken (online). Others appear here for the first time.


They touch on many levels. The sheer simplicity of a single note riding the 
air. The elegance of movement half-intuited from the corner of an eye. A flash 
of color against a darkened sky.

They stir imaginations. They salve wounded souls. They heal dark moments. 
They capture, awe, inspire.

They surround us ... and yet how often do we pass them by without notice, 
without a thought. 

To hear the lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
From his watch-tower in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise....

               --John Milton, "L'Allegro"


AND thus the past proceeds,
One by one by lonely one
Ragged bits of wood along
A potholed track

And thus unfold its convolutions,

A redwing blackbird clutches
Its narrow blade of rush -- 
Cattails blown and frowzy,
Reeds brown in July heat
Marsh receded to a moistened pad -- 
And still the redwing balances
Between wind and wing.

Or a meadowlark, now mute
But waiting for the moment 
To release its song -- 
Phantom song that echoes 
Through bedroom windows
Decades faded
But still the song can conjure -- 
And it waits and faces to the east

And -- how's this for sheer
Simplicity -- a robin,
Rusty-throated, on its
Fence post. I cannot hear
Its song, either, for the rush
Of air against sleek fenders
And the hiss of blackened asphalt on
Black tires...but I can -- or think
I can.

And watch each one proceeding
And wait for new memories
To be reborn.

HIGHWAY 70, SOUTH TO SACRAMENTO CHRISTMAS DAY ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ First, an egret, snow-white hump Unmoving in the ragged field, Chalky blur as our car whips by, Pure against stiff breeze-blown blacks; Then, some miles further south, Three -- one alight, two a-wing -- Blending light with cloud, reflecting Sky to fallow, waiting fields. Then, on both sides, a dozen..., more..., Sweeping angles, binding earth To heaven with lustrous, facile flight, Mirrored in flat watery panes. No more -- or ..., wait ... silhouette Against distant snow-caps, one more Wings silently east, seeking dawn, Surcease from winter's murmured ice. At last, no more. Marsh-black winter Draws itself to a horizon Unremittingly flat and gray.... Where egrets must await the spring.
ON A GLIMPSE OF A NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER, IN THE FRONT YARD, EARLY THIS SPRING ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In the Jacaranda A flush of red White-on-black Mottled shadow Silhouette against An uphill lawn Unlooked for Apparition Lancet claws Splinter bark Lancet beak Searches cracks Barren now For twenty years The jacaranda greets This flush of red Shades their trysting-limbs From eager eyes
TWO MALLARDS ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Two mallards -- arced so smoothly that dusky chaparral in sage and ceanothus occasional scrub oak seemed to spin galacticly while they and I remained rooted to the stone foundations of the world Two mallards -- she smoothly grey he iridescent green on banded brown arced that day against dull clouds and green-black coastal slopes 0 arced and spun my world beneath my eyes as they winged seaward
NUTHATCH ~~~~~~~~ I had thought the nuthatch alien, exotic, flitting page to page in Petersons, washed by Audubons, pinion-probed in Funk & Wagnalls; unable to Rise it had seemed exotic, alien until that summer afternoon. Below, wash of water over marsh-greened stones. Above, ranked Reaches of Sierra granite crest to crest pine to pine; but near to me a single lodgepole mythically straight. Scrub jays squawked its invisible crown, ground squirrels dithered current bushes obscuring its base. But down, around, weaving lines of shade and light, intent on infinitesimal grubs the nuthatch, neither alien nor exotic, wound silences around the trunk. I watched, perhaps breathed, as this common comical bird continued its eternal rounds oblivious to all.
FERRUGINOUS HAWKS: BLACK PINE VALLEY ID ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On moisture-misted irrigation pipes Three spring-coiled hawks Ward vibrant waves of Green alfalfa budding Into purple bloom- North and east and west and south Grey-matte sage gives way To desert-stunted Juniper that dot an ancient Lakebed...now sere and brittle-brown In August heat.
HAWK II ~~~~~~~ From the arched brow Of a freeway light Hawk Wards -- winglessly -- Musky July dawn As it rises with the mist Over the 101 And spills onto Golf course, parking lots, Black asphalt Beneath we Rush unnoticed Roar encapsulated In private Worlds
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ November -- Thousand Oaks, California Black silhouettes on clotted pine boughs, They wait, statue-still, for some unspoken Command, then, as one, wing up and out and Between breaths pivot east to west, as one, Speed low below dark pines, fluttering Loose needles, bark, unwanted flotsam From McDonald's parking lot, pivot North then -- flicking south -- flash, as one, bright Fevered spots that break black unmarked gloss
RED-TAILED HAWK ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On powerpole Red-tailed hawk scimitar-clawed -- black eyes flick leftandright head jerks oval body silent still prepared -- gliding invisible thermals Red-tailed hawk wings stiff-arced banks rightandleft scanning sagebrush arroyo clefts sand-scoured granite shadows black-on- dun fragment movement promises dark bloody warmth -- plummeting wings vee-ed claws poised beak prised Red-tailed hawk dropswoops toward desert floor levels snatches with unbroken speed rises circles disappears
NEVERMORE ~~~~~~~~~ Pretentious at nineteen I read/chant Poe's darkling bird To Valerie as we pass in tandem Between rows of rutabagas Tubs of turnips, turn right Between milk bottles and exotic Wines, wander through bread to Jams and honeys -- all the while Breathless entranced enthralled (we liked to think) in words words words words Oblivious to commonplace Realities until I hear our Grandmother stage-whisper To some unseen watcher, voice A grating rasp against smooth Soothing stanzas, stumbling from A dozen paces back: "It's all right. He's just an English major."
FROST'S CROW, REAPPEARING ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A wayward Crow By a frozen lea Seems a sable foe With a sinister plea, And gives a start, That drives me to brood Over injuries' smart And choices long rued.
CROW COTILLION ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Two-by-two -- I saw -- they hopped A wobbled line along the walk; Black toenails clicked, black feathers flopped, As they performed before the flock. Two led the way, heads ducked and bobbed; Two followed, mimicking the dance; Two trailed behind, with shadows daubed; A sextet preened to primp and prance. Surprised that they did not take flight, I hid behind the stone pavilion -- Self-conscious witness to the sight, Sole guest allowed at the Crows' Cotillion.
13 VULTURES ~~~~~~~~~~~ A cliché, if not by actual count I had not seen them there -- large ravens from A distance, well fed and plump, clotted On the fence posts by the concrete slough. But not -- no, vultures, all thirteen, heads Scabbily bald, wattled, red-spotted, A congregation of old men sitting Judgment on an empty field. One clutched the barkless knurl Of an ancient cottonwood. Another Cut its bevel through a dust cloud raised By cars like mine. Eleven waited Potently on fence posts, waited for The corpses that must come to them.
CROWS ~~~~~ They wait for me, winged shadows in clefts of wailing yews that over hang dark dripping eaves thin gutter-graves for leaves They wait for me, eyes yellow as bright sunlight glancing upon stone wings dark as midnight glittering on snow They sometimes speak their harsh crude mocking cries and sing faint whispers of their knotty sheen But ever they wait for me wait patiently for me in darkened clefts of wailing, failing, trailing gray-green yews
CROW, DEAD RAT, AND ROAD ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Crow, dead rat, and road -- Black on black on black asphalt -- Rainfall drowns a soul
CORMORANT ~~~~~~~~~ A single cormorant clasps a crippled face Streaked and freaked with fading ocher stains Where bird-lime-white once gleamed above a base Of tumbled rock and patiently sanded grains. The cormorant unfurls, fed by raging Need, ragged hunger preying on its flesh -- Unfurls, rises, rides convection waves Beyond flat swells, until its cliff-face flashes Once and sinks. For days it rides. Scans the deeps For shadowed signs, swoops and swirls -- and nagging Blue-harsh static sparks its neurons -- ennui creeps -- Its circuit sinks wider lower flagging Until thick gray voracious ocean currents Consume the last and final cormorant
MOCKINGBIRD ~~~~~~~~~~~ The Mockingbird / precarious tenant in our Apple / nests gray in gray shadows on four spattered eggs Her eye / polished jet and unblinking / glistens I push green apple nubs aside to watch She balances on power lines, Shunning the air above our lawn; Beneath, we water, weed, nail A winter shutter to the wall. My children / temporarily mine soon their own / hold painful breath and anxious peer among red-blushing apples Four spattered eggs glow blue satin in deep shade as my children wait for them to hatch
HARVEST CROWS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Harvest crows caw dark convocations, Pace bone-gr0ay walks with skeletal claws, Haunt suburban entropy and span Black fingers wide to polluted clay, Waft contagion through the land. They perch upon Rough concrete stanchions where lights once glowed at dusk, Red-eyed, to glare deft retribution. One Swoops and clicks and snaps diseased flesh that reeks Beneath an August sun. Another grates Its challenge for the filament of flesh, Black flesh, raw flesh shimmering white against A sable maw. And still the harvest crows press, And congregate, and lordly strut stilt-gaunt legs Along flat paths, asbestos drives, dead ways
WHERE THE WHITE CROW FLIES ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ -- Dim -- dank -- scum-clotted ponds breathe Their pestilence and boil ripe contagion. Trees -- once oak or pine or yew -- ease Raddled branches to a pewter sky, grim Arms upraised, bone-fingers retching Ghosts of disembodied needles, leaves, Insect-clutching galls -- punkie, roach- Infected blots of shadowed life. Stark eaves, They overhang a dwindled earth -- a soil Barren-blasted -- twitching darkness blackness At its core. And more -- ... -- a distant wail -- Panicked gravity -- still warns and wakens Dead ears. A slice of light -- sharded Song -- Surveying its demesne a white crow wings
HUMMINGBIRD ~~~~~~~~~~~ whisk of brown -- not even breath enough for slash of red or ruby-shimmer-green -- just whisk of brown half-sensed beyond spring- unfurled jasmine knots -- evanescent whisper-leaves to susurround white cream and yellow fragrances beyond that whisk of brown -- darning in and out of naked ligaments clinging to sketched arbors -- whisk of brown and blur of wing and sense of arcing needle-bill searching sweetness in bitter white-sap jasmine not yet resigned itself to suicidal bloom whisk of brown -- whisper-sweetness-hum on cream-and-yellow almost-jasmine home
SIGHTINGS: PELICANS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ From shore, the rock hunched white and sodden, drowned By whorls of spray, softened to mottled grays -- After-sunset-pearls. Something moved. Down They dropped, black kernels knotting darkness, day's Tears -- dark-on-white -- plashing against bone-rock, Skull-rock craning up, around, enticing Waves. They dropped, spiraled, settled on the back Of that single white-washed promontory Half-a-hundred yards beyond dull cliffs. One, Then two, then four -- they singly stroked the wind To find each place of settlement -- alone, Disparate on the rock's rutched arc, they dined On half-digested fish. This year, four eggs, Bone-china-thin, lay shattered in stick nests.
SIGHTINGS: SEAGULLS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Yesterday I heard a distant seagull Cry and, glancing skyward, saw dream-white Touched with charcoal-ash arc above [ ..., ] small, Deft sounds of feathers ruffled air. Too late I focused -- by then it had diminished To a fluted cry, brief echo against Unbroken blue. [ ... ] Too late, it flashed Once more, so far removed it seemed to test Sheer memory -- a flash, a moment's grace Urging plaintively beyond a linen World. [ ...and gone.... ] It carried into time, space, Eternity a single fading glint That I shall now encase in brittle glass, Immure in beds of browning, bitter moss.
ELEGY FOR A SWALLOW ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ [Swallow: any of various birds of the family Hirundinidae, having long. Pointed wings and a usually notched or forked tail] I watched them whirl -- an indeterminate rout -- Beyond the lintel, flared feathers flashing Silver-and-gray, seeming-black beneath clouds Piled up offshore before invading The Coastal Range. I watched them swirl and hurl Themselves on invisible currents -- twist, Arc, pivot, rise, and fall in immeasur- Able rhythms that avoided close-massed Bodies of fellows diving for similar blobs Of mud to build quaint nests. I watched them hook Against rough stucco, press minute daubs Into their growing shells, then wing back Down -- their numbers swallowed half the sky. I did not watch this single swallow die.
SWALLOWS II ~~~~~~~~~~~ no swallows flit today duskygray be fore a brilliant sky bluesoblue it pains almost -- above rich chaparralgreen patchwork knotted/twisted strands of springing rain midground -- a single monarch spins slowly dying leaf orangespiraldownward then abreathaheaveasplit in light rolling orangetoblackto orange in blue skyskin foreground -- smeared windowpane streaked ammoniac smearschalkwhite -- bleachedbonedeadwhite to mounds beneath mudnests -- dark mounds funerealblack studdedwhite monochromatic testament to death and life from one swollen nest by one curled claw last year's sylphswallow hangs still alone
MALIBU CA ~~~~~~~~~ Swallows mud-daub beneath wide eaves, snuggled in cool shadows high above reflecting-glinting white stucco walls. Nest piled on nest -- brown hirsute nests, town-nests, single-level condominiums on prime beach-front property. Swivel-necked, swallows peer unblinkingly toward the ocean arcing bow-taut north and south -- toward the blue-grey band defining the ocean lens's furthest boundaries. Hunch-shouldered, tail-braced, swallows perch on vertical walls. How do they stay up there, and not even rubber suction cups on their feet?
TINNITUS MONODY ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ hightension hum over bleak bare desert waves of sand gritting invisibly in dying winds behind the waterfall the ceaseless clack of stainless-steel crickets rubbing rubbing rubbing raw upon smooth shells pressed against the skull birds sweep overhead swirl whirl whistle startlement and hide in rust-black crowns of jutting oaks I watch the silent swallow through thick panes of glass as he or she disgorges mud presses knots of mud into the growing sides of nests, and hear its latent song behind closed eyes steam escapes purse-lipped vents hissing with the heat of deep volcanic fires unseen and unallayed I wrench antennae left and right, up and down, and the static shifts doubles and redoubles until the night glows white with snowdrifts layering the land in the silence of a coffin satin-bright stars explode in distant harmonies of welcome and relief
DOVE OR GULL OR CROW ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ certainly not dove white feathers disguised, haunting black cave- tunnel-mouth like Dante's guide to beckon on; surely not gray-smoke gull wheeling seaward along crisp canyon walls, finger-wings flared to grasp updrafts; doubtless not raucous crow cumbersome aloft auger-eyed assessing what the chance its claws could hook my passing car. No, none of these surely, certainly. without a doubt.
HAWK I ~~~~~~ Hawk startled me swooped wingwide across windshield sandpitted waterspotted fog- blurred Black and large and bulky hawk swooped mindless of windshield car or me canted upward on warm draughts topped canyon's steep chaparral became like all the other hawks symmetrical check-mark black distant against blue-white sky
VULTURE ~~~~~~~ Or perhaps vulture (as my son avers although he reclined half-sleeping when the black shadow rose, soused as if to clutch with careful claw my small Ford, and disappeared above the tunnel's mouth) -- flash of red-on-black glint of hooked beak but mostly bulk and blackly ominous shade whispers death and rises as I pass into darkness
EGRET ~~~~~ Three times I've seen the egret -- no, four times if I count that once when, turning past rocks hot and bare in May, I saw one in the burned-off field -- stark white against ash black. But three times (at least) I've seen him/her not two miles from my dry suburban home. I've seen him/her glide hot air above golden weeds on the freeway off ramp, glide past oaks centuries old, past poppies that would die in July's heat, past concrete rivers that will outlast them all. Three times I've seen the egret wing -- white, calm, silent memory.
GRAY ~~~~ A scintillance of gray sparrows spears an old black yew pruned in tough triangular grace beside black asphalt on a gray November day -- splintering ash and charcoal as they flick the yew with pinions poised, re- verse, reverse, reverse until gray blanches white and flat- sheening feathered mirrors flock gray clouds, gray sun, gray dying day one final burst of light A scintillance of gray sparrows sparrows-not-sparrows but UnDead others calling night
MAGPIE ~~~~~~ In drear remembery, the magpie sleeks Beneath gray cottonwood, beneath bleak Boxelder, beneath vined honeysuckle Redolent with twining cream-turned-brick- Red as double-berries crest and die; Or in the bosky shadows that lie hedge Beyond the outhouse, serpenting with sly- Coiled honesty toward the pasture-edge; Or on slick damp-gray pavers on a Gray-sludge afternoon, between grass dark With raindrops and moist earth lately turned- He-gaudy-raucous-sleeks, and pseudo-speaks Stark white-on-black as if his skreeing sound Could surmount the misting gray surround.
POMEGRANATES ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Finches have plucked ripe pomegranates hollow, split/pricked ruby-leather shells, pried ruby-blooded seeds loose from flesh-tint membranous moorings and swallowed-cocked heads back, throats quivering ... and pomegranates hang -- empty Death-Star hulls -- from barren upper limbs.
KINGS OF THE AIR ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In 1972, Pepperdine University received as a gift from Mr. Fritz Huntsinger an eagle statue, carved from a single piece of Philippine mahogany, representing freedom. For two decades, I took creative writing classes to Payson Library to write poetry suggested by the statue...and have written several myself, some of which follow.

Payson Eagle I ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ warped parabolic wings serrated armadillo claws the mail-scaled eagle flings derision at the landbound protruding eyes protruding sentient forehead promise criticize refute it screams silence amid its realms of books muscles wood feathers wood still borne aspirations and parody of Tennyson's thunderbolt
Despair is an Eagle ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ cut from heartwood rich-grained and throbbing, various in color, sliced grain-wise into claws to clutch a tangle of rotting darkness and pull me downward -- wings expand, not to raise but to repel -- beak hangs a baited smile that transforms into hungry ripping when eyes would close but cannot lest the eagle spy the weakness, feel the darkness and descend in madness beneath the rotten nest.
Payson Eagle II ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Dusty this year -- brown gloss dimmed by dust, dull beak hooked over thick dust, feathers blurred by dust perhaps it suffers from depression hopeless helpless hapless and rests too tired to shrug off thin layers of dust
Eagle ~~~~~ From this angle it perches On Corundum -- Thai-ruby rough, opaque, Corrupted, worn Half-domed, and swirled By dark in- clusions Beneath harsh emery claws -- Star-ruby-brown, Radiating angles from its core Where flight embeds, Fractures, Re- flects In metaphors that Form then shift and then Transform -- Next time it might grasp Green seafoam Froth Or plum- met On the weight of Liquid light
Elemental Sonet XVIII: Eagle ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ entity of earth and water wooden flight straining to at-one with air with fire -- feather beak and claw poised over hot blood turgid earth-blood scorching pinnacle/lair mail-linked feathered head glacier-pale eyes not-white/not-blue translucent glare/stare/dare- ing eight-foot wingspan arched/stretched\arced essays/ conspires/aspires to ascend beyond bare stark-laced granite shoulders barren pine-knot tops burdened with two thousand pounds of nest- ling twigs/branches\moss earth-dead plant-nest that flings wings outward upward skyward air-crest outline dark against cerulean light curving up-/out-/skyward coveting flight
Apollo as an Eagle: Quasimodo from the Cathedral's Pinnacles ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ He glares at me -- -- arrogant hunchbacked half- -formed beak -- talons in segmentals hung, keen jasper roundels on raw jute -- rosette eyes concentric rings of fractured shadow -- -- he glares at me -- -- tongue protrudant like a hanged man's taunt -- skull thrust forward on pain- -twisted neck -- poised to contort, to rage, to goad -- -- he urges me -- -- who would rather passively devour at leisure Shakespeare's sugar'd sonets -- Milton's sharp-quilled cries- Wordsworth -- Byron -- Keats -- -- he surges me -- and rhythms wing staccato feathered counterpoints -- static stutters into linesfeetbeats that unexpected spring from heart-burst-cage
Electric Eagle ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ He pivots once in failing air Where indigo and saffron share And land beneath lies cold and bare. Solar cells flirt with the sun Through poly-pinions half undone By Time's quick-racing, trudging run. He winks at hours, breaths solemn days Above a world long passed away, Its two-legged creatures, corrupted clay.
Haematite ~~~~~~~~~ eagle-flight light-/height-/flight-ed fantasy azure/pleasure leasure feather-lilted shifting cloudbanks shifting ice-crushed Ecstasy upward soaring flaring faring jilted- jolted-folded earthward wingSinging harsh airbursts fragmentary EchoSong long lost now glossed now to mere memory brash flash/slash of eagle-gray suspended hung breath-length eye-blink then sinking further/farther Azure transmogrified as SilverBlack flecks of fire/heat/blood condensed-ice ardor frailing dream/scream of flight in crystalled slack crimson-crystalled water weeps FloodMoans -- weeps and wets glints/cuts/abrades BloodStone
THE NESTLINGS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Nestling I ~~~~~~~~~~ They hatched today. Last night when I peeked among the apples they were eggs, four, end to end among twigs and scraps and a twitch of white yarn looped up and around, an inadvertent infinity. Jamie called last night to say he was doing well and for her not to worry. This afternoon I stood on tiptoes at the patio's edge and saw her tail upright, white striped with charcoal gray, upright and alert. I backed away and moved to the other side of the concrete slab to finish the barbeque. Jamie was going to come by for dinner but did not. His mother thinks his car broke down again, but I don't think that was the reason. After dinner, while we were cleaning up, I glanced at the nest once more. She was perched above my head on the power line, and this time when I leaned into the apples she shrilled at me -- and then I saw four tiny bits of grayish fluff, four sharp orange throats stretched taut and expectant. It startled me. She shrilled again, and I stepped back into the shade. Tonight Jamie called but would not speak to me. His mother cried. I waited but he would not speak through the static and the silence of the telephone. Sitting in my office, I can hear them, a subtle chirrup just beneath the Mozart horn concerto playing on the tape to ward away the silence and the memories. Their infant song hangs softly fragile on the air, underneath the mellow horns. I shall leave the window open for a moment more, then slide it shut, shut out their nascent song. Nestlings II ~~~~~~~~~~~~ One died. An unripe apple slid too soon onto the rumpled nest One died. Hollow bone and hollow almost-pinfeathers and empty skin jumbled in black twigs and white twine. One died. Eyeless sockets black above a withered beak crumpled like a bit of yellowed ivory One died. Small black ants trail down the trunk disappear beneath shaded umbels of dill Nestlings III ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The other three are gone Morning brought the adults with the dawn they echoed through leaves hung heavy with green apples they flicked grayandwhiteandgray through shadows The other three were gone The nest slid sharply groundward its outer lip torn twigs pulling away as if too grownup to be held in precious tension with the rest The other three were gone cat perhaps or 'possum from across the road or fruitrats from the plums beyond the fence no feathers marred the white rocks beneath the tree But the other three were gone At night when heat presses against dull windows I hear them high pitched demanding throatstretched and waiting tomorrow I will take out shears and cut the nest away before the apples ripen Nestling IV ~~~~~~~~~~~ Jamie called from Baltimore -- a continent away from us. He arrived safely, he said, and hoped to find work soon. He spoke ten minutes with her, less than thirty seconds with me -- "Hi, Dad," followed by naked silences and long breaths that spoke most eloquently of long-dead words ice angers raw retreats. Slick static on the line sounded high and thin -- nestlings' hungry cries -- and both of us breathed unspoken promises to brace bare branches and mend an empty nest
THE PIGEON WOMAN IN COOLEY PARK ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. flutter-whirr whirr-coo coo and the pigeon woman in Cooley Park skirts flustered in a March wind march- es headdown shoulderbent body bent against the wind and around her head flutter-whirr whirr-coo angel dusts of white and gray swirl whirl curl in cloudbanks drifting as she drifts along the solitary path between two stands of oaks Bare oaks. The pigeon woman does not see does not listen does not speak beyond a murmured coo coo my lovelies coo coo whirr buzzing her tongue and speaking with the pigeons that are hers 2. Bread crumbs collect in dark pockets stale with crusts and gritty with stray sesame seeds tumbled loose and seeking 0in the darkness for a spot of soil in which to germinate and grow. 3. The park is closed from sundown to sunup, by fiat of the city ordinance carefully spelled out in red letters on the white metal sign hung like a badge of office above the concrete arch between two squat pillars that hold the wrought iron gates that segregate Cooley Park at night. 4. Pigeons wheel in tight formations over gray pools clotted with spring weeds 5. There was a child once one more years ago than there are pigeons on bare branches in two oak groves along a solitary path 6. The pigeon woman in Cooley Park spreads dark hands and dribbles small round yellow seed onto black pavement. A woman in a bright green nylon parka wheels her two-hundred-dollar carriage past. The pigeon woman does not look up. The pigeons do not stir from their feeding. The child does not cry as he is wheeled by. The woman in the bright green nylon parka sees the pigeon woman but does not see her hear her listen to her care. 7. Home is a shallow space scraped beneath an overpass. Cars hurtle over her head without knowing she is there, curled against herself. She does not sleep. The pigeon woman stares unblinking against darkness, not listening to the stir of cars over her head and sees only darkness until the sky lightens. She unfolds her thick self, pulls a thick black cloth coat tighter around her middle and cinches it with a bit of rope she found along the road. She stands beneath the overpass, a runner at her mark, until the edge of the sun clears the trees of Cooley Park, a mile distant to the east. She stares at it and does not blink until the sun is round and low and ready. Then she blinks, and the tears form but are not wept. There was a child once. 8. The man is waiting for her behind the shop. She has never read the sign over his brick red door. She has never spoken to him. He is waiting and holds out his hand and she takes the small paper bag with its folded top with its creased sides with its rounded bottom that holds bird seed enough for a week there will be no more [she knows but does not say] so she must be careful. Otherwise the birds must go hungry She takes the bag and the man steps inside the brick-red door and he closes it quietly and she walks on. Cooley Park is half a mile away. There was once a child. She does not speak. 9. Pigeons cut the sun -- Shadow-wings sever light from Light at first dew-dawn. 10. At sunrise, someone unlocks the lock on the gate between squat concrete pillars and the pigeon woman shuffles through on her way to the solitary path between two stands of oaks still naked but beginning to bud in March. 11. At noon the Processional moves a crippled millipede through Cooley Park bearing banners and green bunting shouting Wo/Men bear witness to Inequality Intolerance Incapacity. Blue-jacketed troopers line the cobbled path between two stands of naked oak but noOne intrudes argues shoutsback throws offal at the men walking hand/in\hand the women\for/abortion the laughingChildren waving gigantic lollipops screaming against WarHomelessnessBigBusinessOil ObscenityBigotryNukes and noOne shouts back and noOne stalls the forward flow of the eccentric millipede to speak to the pigeon woman where she sits back-toward-the-walkway hunched over lifeless feathers and a split of rusty blood The Processional juggernaut rolls over her over the corpse of a dead bird 12. When a child dared to smile [there was a child once] at the pigeon woman later that day -- when the sun was leaning westward and deep shadows laced through naked branches -- [once] a startled mother jerked a small arm and whirled a small body sideways and marched away 13. noOne noticed except the pigeons mindless fluffs of feathers without brains to speak of without memory without understanding with only instinct and an emptiness in bellies without seed noOne thought to check the recesses of the hollow beneath the overpass a mile from Cooley Park After a while the pigeons no longer congregated in the naked branches of the naked oaks beside a path. 14. Once there was a pigeon woman in Cooley Park
REMEMBERING THE FLIGHT OF WINGLESS BIRDS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ DUSK came early that July, when Pinatubo's dust bled scarlet, saffron, gold and ochre through the stratosphere. LIGHT caught oddly on cold plate glass planes, hung in sheaves like wheat from oaks and sycamores, their branches stark and sere SILHOUETTES snip-scissored by occluding mass and arabesques of leaf and twig. Air palpable, absolved of cheer, FELL in sheets across white concrete walks stained hell-bleached bronze; wan west washed pale, then deepened with crisp flames of ash-spawned fear. SILENCE settled slowly through soft filtered light. The violence of Pinatubo's fire lay half a world from here, SPEAKING in choked, muted tones of ash. Seeking momentary calm, he sits beyond smooth panes to count past years, REMEMBERING the flight of wingless birds.
All Poems copyright (c) Michael R. Collings 2007


Biographical and bibliographical information

Michael R. Collings is an emeritus professor of English at Seaver College, 
Pepperdine University (Malibu CA), and former Poet-in-Residence and director 
of Creative Writing. His collections have appeared several times in Ygdrasil, 
and several hundred individual poems have been posted on internet sites world 
wide; two haiku alone have been posted on over one hundred sites. 

During his nearly thirty years at Pepperdine, he published several score 
books, including volumes of poetry, annotated bibliographies, and scholarly 
studies of contemporary authors, most notably Stephen King, Peter Straub, and 
Orson Scott Card. In April 2007, his novel THE HOUSE BEYOND THE HILL was 
published by Wildside Press; upcoming books include a second novel, WORDSMITH, 
and reprints of a number of earlier books of poetry and scholarship.

He is well known as a student of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, having 
served as Academic Guest of Honor, Poet Guest of Honor, or Special Guest for 
several years at the "Life, the Universe, and Everything" symposium held 
annually at Brigham Young University. In April of 2007 he spoke at "Into the 
West: Tolkien Festival 2007" held at the University of Utah. And he has been 
invited to serve as Academic Guest of Honor for the World Horror Convention 
2008, to be held in Salt Lake City.


All poems copyrighted by their respective authors. Any reproduction of
these poems, without the express written permission of the authors, is

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