Urban Pasture — NaPoWriMo #22 — Earth Day!


I borrowed this from Green Thumb: Adventures in Southern California because there is exactly zero chance I could have ever gotten this shot. Gorgeous. Could have been my very own Chenchito. Click on the photo to see more great shots like this one.

After a time wandering
the asphalt labyrinth
songs of the pastures
call seductively
promising peace and quiet
simplicity and beauty — a melody
inducing amnesia, erasing
mosquitos, ticks, thorns, flies,
snakes, fleas, burrs, chiggers
and stickers.

But one desert moonless morn’,
a breeze slides across my skin.
As the sun flirts with the night sky,
I recognize a certain flick
on a wire overhead.
His notes dance around the pole,
slide down among the pebbles
and over the driveway
into my feet and hands

before he stretches his wings —
streaked with concrete white —
into the eastern sky.


True story. Obviously, I’ve messed with the “pastoral” concept quite a bit here, but as my students might say, “it’s valid.”

The prompt: “Today is Earth Day, so I would like to challenge you to write a “pastoral” poem. Traditionally, pastoral poems involved various shepherdesses and shepherds talking about love and fields, but yours can really just be a poem that engages with nature. One great way of going about this is simply to take a look outside your window, or take a walk around a local park. What’s happening in the yard and the trees? What’s blooming and what’s taking flight?”


Sunday Saving Daylight — NaPoWriMo6

Eyes still shut
I awake to the practiced, stolen
tunes of the mockingbird chief
outside my window;
I love his
teachery ways.
My sleepy ears enthralled
by his youngliings’ answers:
in tune, if not on key.

A crunch of leaves,
already sun-dried in April,
disguises the crack of a bat
and briefly the rustle
of fifty Moms cheering
in the stands;
I break open soft-boiled eyes
and imagine shadows of children
swinging bats for arms and mitts for hands.

A glance at the clock
reminds me time has changed;
by summer schedule
I’m up early even
without counting the hour I’ve lost,
but I envy my mockingbird
his timeless choir practice
that runs on angles of light
not on the hands of a clock.

Las Mamás Esperan que Volemos (The Mommas Hope that We Fly)

Ah, the chamberlain (if I'm not mistaken), pathetic fellow, he is.  Taken from planetirk.forumotion.com

Ah, the chamberlain (if I’m not mistaken), pathetic fellow, he is. Taken from planetirk.forumotion.com (film reference The Dark Crystal [1983])

The poor fledgling trapped in my carport looked like a Skeksis. They always do. I can’t help but feel sorry for the ugly things. First off, they’re so pitifully ugly in the midst of molting before they can fly, but after they’ve been cute and fuzzy with baby feathers.  When they get stuck in the carport, as one or two does almost every year at about this time, they always find the same perch under the bench and won’t be persuaded to move more than a hop or two. Usually within a day or so, the local street cats, the bite of starvation, or the roasting spring sun catch and break these fallen nestlings. But this guy had cojones.  All week I watched him go from hobbling the ten feet from my washer to the front gate, faling to fly and then, finally, flying short distances inside the carport and a little beyond.

Every day an army of grackle mommas that live in the tree out front kept a close eye out for any threatening movement from the cats and me.  These are serious mamasotas.  They are not to be crossed. Their presence makes clear why Hitchcock’s The Birds is such a scary movie. As I hung up the laundry last Saturday, I found myself cringing under their screechy scrutiny; there were ten or so worrying the top of the high wall around the laundry space. Even though I didn’t see the fledgling at first, I knew he had to be there somewhere; the mommas army doesn’t deign to notice me unless there’s a baby hiding out.

Sunday morning when I went out to collect the laundry, the main momma — the one with goodies in her beak — sent all the others to harangue me while she looked for the little one. Grackle mommas, aside from being vocal, are quick and wicked looking. I crept back inside, figuring the laundry could wait while the little one got fed. Monday and Tuesday I dashed in and out of the house warily, bearing glares and warning squawks with a mix of patience and trepidation.  I’ve read that crows and grackles recognize human faces and have been known to attack offensive people.  I didn’t want to accidentally do anything to offend.

Fallen Chanate / grackle, before flight

Fallen Chanate / grackle, before flight

By Wednesday he had perched his ugly Skeksis-self atop the bougambilia bush. I was impressed and hopeful that he’d been able to fly high enough to get to that point four feet off the ground. Not wanting to scare him, I neglected watering the plants. I explained the situation to the airplane plant, the ivy, the rosemary and thyme – begging fotbearance — and then stealthily refilled the water bowl I’d left out for the stranded fledgling.  The next morning he was nowhere in sight, and Momma only fussed briefly as I left for work.  When I came home yesterday afternoon he had not come out of hiding, but I’d seen him fly quite high, so I decided that he had finally gotten strong enough to fly himself away. My hope was heightened to a kind of glee when my neighbor told me this morning that yesterday he had seen the bird fly from the carport all the way up to the top of the seven(ish)-foot high perimeter gate.

Today, Friday, he lay there in the fiery afternoon sun, fat, molting, and covered in soapsuds.  His little body had tipped over in a puddle, his beak pointing south, open a crack, still in wait for the day’s feeding, his feet like broken twigs flopped uselessly. The dead fledgling simmered in a soapy soup on the concrete between the hot water heater and the washer.  I hadn’t liked him hanging out in my carport all week, and even less did I appreciate his mom’s scolding each time I went in or out with trash, to water plants, wash clothes, hang clothes.  I guess I should be glad he’s gone, but I’m curiously sad.

He came so close to flying free against the high, endless blue, croaking his misanthropic “song.” Early on, I could have shoo-ed him out the big carport door onto the sparse grass below his home tree.  I could have tried to put him in a cage and feed and water him there.  But I decided to let him use my whole carport to try to find his own way.  I guess that’s why I’m sad.  Of all the options available to me as a witness to his strife, I did the best thing I knew to do: not interfere, keep an eye out (momma grackle, me), make resources available that he couldn’t have gotten on his own, and wait for him to take wing. Maybe next year. ~LD

* * *

A few process details: After a draft workshop on Tuesday with the sophomores (oh, how I love the sophomores) I almost didn’t finish this.  The earlier incarnation had great description, but was purposeless — the fledgling was still living at that point.  But today, after finding the fledgling dead during housecleaning, the REASON came into being.  I remembered being one of Momma and Daddy’s “arrows” set free to fly into an unknown distant future. No other note is needed here, I think.

Glad you dropped by.  Leave a comment if you are so inclined. ‘-) No matter what, have a great weekend.  Summer cometh. ~LD

The Neighborhood — NaPoWriMo #13

Abandoned homes
huddle along the streets
on the edge of paranoia,
tremble at the prospect of a future
without a family to shelter.
Their whispers and suspicious glances
color the sunset
of this early desert evening.
Wisps of cloud mar
the perfect blue of the sky
A mockingbird hiding
in a tree up ahead
teases with his insistent song;
his notes bounce against my skin
but he’s too clever
to let his flashwings be found.
Soon his songs are behind me,
having taken on a melody of disdain.


Happy Thanksgiving, Peppermint Patty!

Well, I’m not quite the blockhead Charlie Brown was trying to grow out of being, but make no mistake, I’m among his crew.  Not as cute as Snoopy (my ears are too short and I’ll never be Joe Cool), I pick Peppermint Patty. We are similar in temperament: a little too eager, but admirably “go thing do.”  I have high hopes that we will not be reduced to popcorn and toast. Such a reduction would be particularly disastrous, as I have neither popcorn for popping nor bread to toast.

I do Thanksgiving dinner (potluck style) for my Mexican friends / adopted family every year, and every year I’m sort of vaguely terrified there will not be enough food to go around.  My usual invitation list is around ten people total including me.  Usually a few less.  This year I invited something like fifteen people.  Actually, I’m not sure how many I invited because there are at least two ways to figure the numbers: with kids and spouse, and without (also, with kids, no spouse, and with spouse no kids – too many variables.)  So Saturday, after sending out the “official” invite, I was beside myself with mathematical conundrums.

Here I need to digress briefly to apologize for still not having adjusted fully to the metric system. Early on, I made some rough equivalents for temperature, weight, and volume that worked reasonably well to get by and then I never really did anything to incorporate the “new” system in a more realistic fashion.  So when it comes to temperatures, I know that 32°F is 0°C, 32°C is roughly 90°F, and anything over 37°C is over 100°F.  When I cook, if the recipe is in one of my US cookbooks, or if it’s out of my memory, I have to get online and go to a temperature converter to get the right oven setting.  When it comes to weights, it’s very little different. To get a pound of hamburger, I buy a half kilo.  On a day-to-day basis these estimates have worked fine for me. But Monday when I went to get the bird, all went awry.

I was still in the midst of doing all the math to count guests when I went to get the official bird on Monday morning.   The first confusion was figuring I needed about a pound per person, so I was looking for the wrong sized bird to begin with.  To exacerbate matters, I looked at the weight of the (big busty beautiful) bird, but I “forgot” how important the decimals are, so I only looked at that main number.  A lovely, round eight.  My favorite number.  About 16 pounds, very big, but not out of the realm of reality. Actual weight: 8.773 kilos or 19.3 pounds.  Swift would be proud.  I bought the turkey equivalent of a small child. Naturally, by the time I realized, I was home and the bird had been in the fridge thawing for two days. Swiftian turkey it is, then.

The next conundrum I would have had regardless of the turkey’s weight.  I have a half-size oven.  Even a decent sized roasting chicken is a trick to squeeze in there.  A couple of years ago, to combat the problem of a small oven and a cook with delusions of grandeur, I studied my cookbooks, consulted my official kitchen assistant (Mom) and figured I could cut the bird into six pieces and strategically pile them inside the browning bag so that the fattest pieces sit on top of the breast to keep it moist.  The bird does fit, sort of, into the oven in this way.  But I have to be sure that the door closes completely and that no little bits of browning bag are sticking out anywhere, and that there’s a little room at least above for the bag to expand. But I get ahead of myself; first the bird must be cut up, and since I bought it at a store without a butcher, I have to do it myself.

Remembering the disgusting mess that I made of my kitchen last time (you really don’t want to know; suffice it to say I’m still not convinced that all the turkey flesh is off my kitchen walls and window from that first experiment), I made a plan.  I sharpened my knife. Though much too small for the job of cutting anything more ambitious than veggies for soup, it is a good little kitchen knife. I got out the carpenter’s tape and two big trash bags.  I moved the dining room table into the middle of the dining area (away from the books and walls), cut open the trash bags and taped them to the tabletop.  I got out my two, two-gallon soup pots to put pieces in as I worked, and then I went for the bird.

I will spare you the details, but I’m happy to report that it only took forty-five minutes and a little patience to cut the bird into the pieces I needed, pull up the icky-fied trash bags, mop the floor and deposit bird pieces in the fridge.  As we speak, the bird is waiting patiently inside the browning bag for the hour to arrive.  The magic hour is 2 pm.

Around 1:30 I will retoast the cheese puffs.  They won’t be warm when folks get here, but they will at least be revived and a little crispy.  They’re good cold anyway.  I’ll have a nap before the game starts at 3. Around 4:30 I’ll begin the negotiation with my microwave (it only works in 30 second spurts; sometimes I can coax it into running for a minute at a time) to reheat this year’s experimental dish: roasted pumpkin with rajas (strips of roasted poblano pepper), seasoned with toasted cominos and served with cream.  I tried it.  I like it, but it’s very very different.  Standing in line, ready to go are the American-style queso dip, a pecan pie, an apple crisp, a platter of olives, pickles, and cured meats. Someone is bringing rolls, someone else mashed potatoes, there’s a salad, a cheese tray and I don’t know what else.

As folks start to trickle in around 5 this afternoon there will be enough to keep our fingers and tummies busy and happy. The company will be great and I will be wishing that you all could be here, too.  Come on over from Tel Aviv, from Mozambique, from Singapore, from Springfield and Kansas City, Missouri; from Abilene and Fort Worth, Texas and all the other places in the world where you are and graze with us and laugh, play a little guitar and sing.  As I’ve gone about all the preparations this week, I’ve thought of all of you in different ways and for different reasons and I’m glad you were here with me in thought.  I wish you all the blessings of this Thanksgiving Day, whether you are dining on turkey and fixings or popcorn and toast. ~LD

Poem, write me

A couple of weeks ago, in a dull moment, and passing 1,000 tweets on Twitter, I decided to collect up all the tweets I’d ever tweeted and “do something” with them.  (The full document is nine pages!) This week’s post is the first product, though after culling and sorting, it’s clear that there are two or three or more other possible pieces left to go.  I’d call this still in draft form, but it is nearing completion.  I suspect I don’t use Twitter the way it was intended, but that’s the beauty of the internet: its uses are fluid.

Quickie translations for non-bilingual readers: chanate = crow; chencho = local word for mockingbird; golondrina = barn swallow; margarita = daisy; and colibrí = hummingbird. Have a great week! ~LD

Poem, write me

Monday morning, full moon falling
lullaby stars
shrinking into desert flame
a hundred thousand dreams fall together,
dangling by a thread of ether —
Wide universe, slow move, fast dance, long sleep.
The stars have barely risen and still
the night insists on ending
Moon don’t say goodnight…
morning comes up around the sun, chilled by starlight.

Golondrina, chanate, chencho, margarita –
daylight, daydreams, dabbling free
in elderly sunlight…
Oaks, cedars and sycamores…
flycatchers, house wrens and inca doves…
I would like to be in the barn swallow coffee klatch
‘tween greens and feathers there’s no room for bad news.

Chanate sawing, chencho singing
Chencho, chencho,
where do you go,
when the sun is high and leaves are burning?
Checho, chencho,
where do you go,
when the moon is low?

Colibrí love on the porch
before the heat gets high;
covetous cats chattering cheerfully;
strings of mimosa flowers
doodle bug houses of sticks and mud —
to be only four again
when “backyard” meant freedom!

Save poems for another day — full moon, full moon!
Trapping moonbeams with my fingers
Moon in my hands,
sun in my eyes,
dust in my lashes,
poems dribble over my lips,
to fall and break on my pen like glass.
There’s my old friend, the moon…