Posts Tagged ‘Sandhill Cranes’

Poetry Challenge 28

August 28, 2009

Today, walking to a meeting on campus, I heard a ruckus of cranes, but looked up and saw only blue sky.  I waited, and one V after another crested the hill.  I hollered, “Wrong way!  Go back!” as if that could stem the inevitable pull of dwindling light and creeping chill that is drawing them south.  As I walked by each building on campus, I saw small groups of people standing there, looking up, awed by the force of their collective calls, and each longing to reverse the day and leap back through time to spring.

So write about a sound you’ve heard that let you know something was about to change.  Or about a good-bye that was somehow mixed with a natural event,  such as the southern migration of sandhill cranes.


This is from Cast of Thousands by way of Glow:

the night she left me
August fireflies lay in the dew
too cold and heavy to fly,
scattered like sparks from a fire
in the damp grass.
they lay glowing,
pulsing with light,
piteously sending love signals
to each other
but none could fly.
i assume their tiny insect hearts swelled
their fiery fly emotions surged
hopelessly mired
in wet, chill desire.
i watched her headlights
fill the night, then vanish
as she turned the corner.
the dark rolled around me
while tiny desperate lights
blinked and blinked and blinked.

The View from Mattie’s Pillow

August 28, 2009

We’re into late summer weather here. Early fall, really. On the willows growing out of the side of the bank and along the roads and riverbanks, there are starting to be a few yellow leaves like bright commas among the dusty green.

Overhead, the sandhill cranes flock and circle, their wide-stretched wingspan, long necks, stick legs behind. Today, I walked to campus from the parking lot and a V of geese straggled overhead. They called to each other with that slightly desperate, questioning call they have, as if they are always lost: “Which way? I thought you knew? Now what?” The cranes sound like they are having more fun. They gargle out their call as if the air were delicious to them. I watched a group of them yesterday, circling on an eddy of air, revving themselves up for the long flight to Brownsville, where they overwinter in the fields and the Laguna Atascosa wildlife refuge. There were young ones among the flock and they seemed to be teasing each other, brushing wingtips and rolling away, then righting themselves and doing it all over again.

A friend once told me that when cranes fly over, it’s good luck. We’re out standing under cranes as much as we can right now, storing all the luck we can.

And we sure do seem to need it. I’m still reeling from the loss of my friend, mentor, and colleague, Roy Bird. And then there’s Teddy Kennedy, whose life in politics has been an ongoing presence in the political consciousness of a whole generation. And then there’s the rain, the cold, and, the true mark of the coming of fall in the Interior, dark nights. We mark the end of summer with the sighting of the first star. It usually coincides with first frost.

We’ve avoided frost here in the hills, but some friends have lost their gardens already. I still have red and green romaine, purple and orange carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, crookneck squash, broccoli, kale, potatoes, and, in the greenhouse coming ripe just in time, luscious Chianti Rose tomatoes.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a poem after a walk in Creamers’ Field among cranes, called, “We Tempt Our Luck”—the cranes, the first hint of winter chill, and the boy in the poem who was writing to save his luck all wove into the poem. It’s now the title poem of a chapbook of poems that is just out from Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press, in Virginia (see Writing Links for their website). Now, I’m thinking about how much hope it’s possible to have, cranes or no cranes—then thinking of Teddy, who was a committed optimist, or he wouldn’t have reached out to as many people or crossed as many party lines as he did. I’ll dedicate some of my back-to-school energy this fall to his memory and to Roy, who reminds me to speak truth to power and to do it from my most genuine self.

Yesterday, speaking of hope, I went out on the deck as the light was beginning to turn that watery gray it gets when it’s about to pour rain or when it’s serious that night will come soon. I could see an orange tinge to the sky, flat with clouds. Somewhere behind me the north-west setting sun skipped over the northern curve of the earth and shot a ray into the rusty gray sky, arcing a perfect rainbow across the sky. Because of the orange tint in the clouds, the blues and greens were tough to pick out. But the reds, yellows, oranges glowed. A strange beauty, after much gloomy rain.

Today, a scrubbed blue sky. And the cranes.

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