Tag Archives: birds

Little Bird: rannaigheacht ghairid

Little bird:
did you think that no one heard
your bright melody at dawn,
long gone before day’s first word?

Seems absurd
that your little tune conferred
on my thoughts such peaceful ease
across the breeze, little bird.

17 APR 2017

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Out Back: an observation

The short grass under the spreading live oak
is mostly dead – a dappled green
stretch of dirt that seems to soak up
the shadows cast from the tree limbs
just starting to burst with new growth
this spring.

In this shade, gray squirrels and red-winged blackbirds,
bluejays and golden finches, too,
flit quickly to and fro between the feeders:
high on the black electric lines
one minute, then down into
the still dewy morning lawn the next,
grasping a brown seed or two in their black shiny
beaks, as their partners
and lovers
and children
sing merrily out from above,
“Come here, come quick! There’s food!”

06 APR 2014

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The Mockingbird

I have heard the mockingbird’s own personal song:
late at night when other fowl have found their nests,
the tune comes sweet and low, passed like a hot plate
between two diners at an all-night chop house,
whose whispers barely rise above the constant hum
of the deep freeze and yellow-red heat lamps
on the raised platform between greasy cook and rumpled girl,
whose chewing gum snaps like the second hand
of a battery-powered watch, keeping and doing time.

I have heard the mockingbird at other times, too:
echoing note for note an exercise of Paganini’s,
repeating sections time and time again, each trill
rehearsed like a second chair violinist aiming for first.

I have heard the mockingbird, disguised among the trees;
and though the other birds perhaps were fooled,
leaving their nests to search for some Caruso-throated Romeo,
as a musician and singer myself, I could tell it was him,
showing off, pretending like Jack Benny would, to be inept,
and only capable of the rough squawks and whistles
that comprise the repertoire of wrens and crows.

I have heard the mockingbird’s own secret verse:
for fellow mockingbirds alone, this song is loosed,
when haughty critics and ignorant crowds have gone away.
Then the Bird drops his subservient tone, and
with Dizzy and Monk, after hours, shows what he can do.

15 JUL 2005

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Early Morning

There is something liberating about
waking up early. Not too
early, mind you. But earlier
than you need to be
awake; and if you’re lucky,
early enough to see the
last of the night disappear
in the whitewash of the
morning sun, and to hear
the birds when they first
rise and start practicing their
songs, like violinists warming up
outside the concert hall for
a performance later that afternoon.

It’s a sense of freedom,
definitely — and an opportunity to
feel the earth’s slow glow
as it stretches its muscles
and wipes the traces of
sleep from its opening eyes.

29 DEC 2004

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At Dawn When I Awoke

At dawn, when I awoke, the rain
was but a mist that damped the lawn;
and then its whitewash strength increased
to rinse the night, ’til it was gone.

Its purpose served, it too then waned,
as greys began to blue
and dried the puddles left behind
to just a drop or two.

Yet on the breeze I taste it still —
its cool and fragrant kiss,
that lingers in the morning air;
good days begin like this.

The wrens, at first asleep, or shy,
now venture from their shade
and low, take up their favorite tune
and start to promenade.

07 DEC 2004

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Two Murders

Two murders I witnessed in opposite trees
across the canal, voicing cacophony;
a trial of wills between territories
resulting in blackened skies, as the light breeze
of morning and rain brought a chill to my knees.

Not often such numbers are gathered this way,
suggesting an omen to christen the day
accompanying storm clouds hung heavy and gray,
their pregnant, expectant rough edges in fray
awaiting the hour when havoc would play

on all thoughts of picnics, or sunlit parades.
I watched as the black wings formed out of the shade
there in the tall cypress where their nests were laid;
and just for a moment, felt cold and afraid —
then sipped from my hot cup of coffee, just made,

and drew on my pipe, let the thick smoke surround
my head, and then slowly, not making a sound,
rose from my chair, let my feet feel the ground
cool underneath me, and looked once around,
and thought of myself, quite small and unprofound.

Two murders I witnessed in opposite trees
this morning while killing time quite patiently;
and though it was quite unrelated to me
I pondered some moments on the irony
that such things should happen, and that I should see.

04 DEC 2004

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The Black Druids

At seven ten this morning
as the night gave way to dawn
a band of three of black druids*
gathered out on my front lawn

I heard them last night singing
in the dead calm, loud and clear;
but did not recognize their song
until they drew more near.

Drawn to my house, I might suppose
to offer me some clue,
and sip with careful wisdom
from the lawn’s supply of dew

Three travelers from the Otherworld
stopped by to check the fire
beneath my recent relit forge
and kindle my desire.

“Recall your smithy lineage,”**
they spoke, and then took wing.
Against this synchronicity
I dared not say a thing.

How odd that they should now appear,
as strangers to these lands,
and offer this encouragement
to my oft idle hands.

And yet, these harbingers whose song
last night I failed to ken
have come to stay among my trees;
I count them as my friends.

05 MAY 2004

* In Welsh, the blackbird is known as “Druid Dhuhb” or the “Black Druid”. While we are fortunate enough to have wrens, crows, bluejays, robins, cardinals, sparrows, starlings, pigeons and an occasional parrot among us here in New Orleans, in the five years I have been here this is the first time I have seen an actual black bird. Perhaps there is some significance to this, as the black bird is one of the totem animals for the Druid — a communicator between this world and the Otherworld, a piercer of the veils.

** There is an area of the old city of Philadelphia that at one time was known as “Cooper’s Road” or “Coopersville”, in part due to the fact that my ancestor, Simon Litzenberg and his five sons set up shop along that stretch after their arrival from Europe in 1741 as blacksmiths and wheelwrights.

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