Bird Poem

A raven shadows the page
while chickadees flit letter to letter.
A woodpecker punctuates phrases
while sparrows peck dots over i’s.

Hummingbirds sip nectar of adjectives
as bluebirds sit upon nests of nouns.
Starlings congregate on conjunctions
while swallows lift off the backs of verbs.

Loons dive down to come up between words
while a Great Blue wades deep into lines.
And I wait, watching for brown-penciled swifts
and the last dark ink of the crow.


Barn Swallows

The swallows, the swallows, the swallows are here–
  dancing and darting and dipping the sky,
It’s the spring, the spring, the spring of the year
And they’re feeding on insects as fast as they fly.

Into and out of again and again
   the winter-old barn where rafters are hung,
with mud-bits and grass, sweeping low as they pass,
   the swallows are making nests new for their young.


The barn swallows made their delightful arrival to our small farm in Maine in early May.  We first saw them in the sky and then watched them swoop through the open doors of the barn.  They had returned from a long migratory journey from South America to their last year’s nests.

Our large calico cat feigned little interest in their arrival. She lay curled up in her favorite spot of sun just outside the barn door.  But the swallows responded quite differently. They made acrobatic turns and low-level sweeps just above her head.  They were re-building their nests and every time they entered the barn, they gave her fair warning. But Calico Cat did not move from her spot, neither did she open her eyes. She was an old cat and had many years of experience with swallows.

Winter Wren

In the winter of the spring,
in thin gray woods we heard him sing
when near the long fog from the sea
was cold and wet on rock and tree;
we heard the leaps of high brook run;
we saw the sparkling of the sun;
we knew the blossoming to come
in the miniature of song.
Though first he was to call it Spring,
We called him Winter when he’d sing.


It was April in Acadia National Park.  We were hiking a trail near the ocean – a trail along a shallow valley of deciduous woodland. The trees were still in their winter gray. Suddenly we stopped; we had heard a bird sing. Its music was so light, so delicate, like a high-pitched trill in a Chopin nocturne. We listened a long time to its rapid repeats. We could not see this tiny feathered music box, but we took its singing home. 

Does the Winter Wren really sing the first song of spring?

Mountain Owl

You stared at us
with summit eyes
in rock-brown feathers,
by sleight of wind,
approach of sun.
You stared at us
without a turn
of head or lift
of layered wing –
as still
as ages looking on.
You stared at us
who traveled
what granite-taloned
catch us there.


Pine Warbler

Small bird upon the walk,
hard and cold,
I stoop to hold
a thousand miles of sky
and pines as safe as home.

Small bird in my hand,
you did not come
this far
to lie hard and cold
upon the tar.


It was springtime. I was walking on a sidewalk at the University of Maine. Suddenly, I looked down to see a tiny bird lying cold and still on the tar. I picked it up and realized that it was a Pine Warbler. I remembered that this warbler had wintered in the pine woods of the South and travelled a thousand miles or more to make a nest in the pine forests of Maine.

The Old Man and the Pigeons

The pigeons
and mumble
      over bread;

The old man
and mumbles
       as they’re fed.

They speak
       to hear
   each other
      what is said;

One talks
      of company,
the other, bread.

They feed
       each other
day long
       in the park
with nods
and conversation
until dark.

The pigeons
      rise to night
     in crowded eaves.
The old man
      follows with his eyes
 then leaves.


The Phoebe

flicks and flicks
her tail
and watches us
watching her
on the rail.
She has a nest
in the porch’s eave
where she’ll go
as soon as
she sees us leave.
She can’t
say her name
with a wasp
in her bill
and four wide mouths
to fill and fill
with ants
and flies
and beetles
and then
and flies
and beetles


The Robin Sang

The robin sang
with his red breast high.
He sang loud and late
to the red-breast sky.              

The robin sang
‘til the spruce was black.
He sang to the sky
with its cloud-feathered back.

The robin was still
when the sky was gone.
Dark in the spruce,
he sat alone.

The robin sang
with his red breast high
when early again
came the red-breast sky.




The Hammock Bird


Eyes hard,
talons tight
wings wide,
she craves
the sight
of some
sure food
to carry
to her brood.



a ringed buoy
in the gentle waves
of pasture out
beyond the fence
(that meek sea wall);

with gullish call
the morning fog;

frantic in the wake
of tiller
churning up the sod;

and goes
on a metaphor
no inland creature


Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves

In the early morning gray
I hear doves mourning far away –
Mourning morning’s early gray.
        Under the interrupting crow,
        Above the shrubs where grackles go,
        I hear their cooing slow and low.
I, sleepless in the early gray,
Know sleepless sounds before the day.


Mother Duck’s Lullaby

Down, down little ducklings in the down of the nest;
Down, down little ducklings safe under my breast.

The sun has gone down ‘neath the breast of the hill,
Go down, too, my ducklings, in the down and be still.

Down, down little ducklings, not one more peep, peep;
Close your eyes and your bills, go to sleep, go to sleep.

Sleep ‘til the down of the dawn mist moves by
And the sun swims again in the lake of the sky.


Great Blue

I call you
Shadow Wings –
as slow and dark
as dusk,
you take your flight
from the shore of night.

Great Blue,
I call you
Shadow Wings –
as close and soft
as sleep,
you pass overhead
to some hidden bed.