First Robins by William Reger

Who strew the millet and sunflower seeds,
Attracting these red-vested jots
To the wintry paper of my yard?
Black and square in my overcoat,
I pass them by, an exact counterpoint
To their gratitude who left
The dark wind for this plenty.
Seek, seek, seek, they chirp,
And ye shall find the oil-fat seed,
The berry full and sweet.
Better to pass through sorrow
For a cracked kernel of corn
Than waste away in paradise.

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Will Reger was born and raised in the St. Louis, Missouri area.   He has a Ph.D. in History from the University of Illinois and currently teaches history at Illinois State University.   He lives in Champaign, Illinois, with his wife and two youngest children.   He began writing poetry in the 7th grade and never quite stopped.   He also plays the Native American Flute. He has recently had poems published in Fire in the Pasture and songs /cycles.

*competition entry*

How to free a hummingbird from a skylight

Male black-chinned hummingbird

Like most folks, my husband, kids, and I greet spring’s arrival with relief.   The relaxing of winter’s grip, the first crack of color between sepals clutching flower buds, the sun’s liberating warmth all lighten the load my family balances gingerly as we carry it through winter’s dimly-lit cellars.   But as daylight’s gold, pink or orange borders stretch from their winter proportions to become a mazy, five in the morning €˜til nine-thirty at night field of shimmer and electrical storms, we pay particularly close attention to a tweak in light that occurs around April’s third week.   At a certain change of pitch in the sunshine’s angle and intensity, hummingbirds return to traditional nesting sites in our southeastern Utah neighborhood from snowbird resorts in Mexico. Continue reading “How to free a hummingbird from a skylight”

Robin by Barry Carter

A robin arrived early spring with
snow on his breast and the
moon in his eyes heavier
than the moon in the sky.
He took his rest on my
gaunt apple tree and
the robin’s winter melody
began to haunt me, he
sang every day for twelve
days and on each day
an apple grew. I watched
him from the window.
The moon in my eyes
escaped with tears.
I ate the fruit and on
each day for twelve
days I had a dream
that bore moons.
After waking on the
twelfth day I copied
and pasted each dream
scene by scene onto
the sky under a full
moon. The robin sang
and I waited for the moons
to fall.

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To read Barry’s bio and another of his poems on WIZ, go here.

*contest entry*

Late Spring Ringmaster by Mary Belardi Erickson

A lone pelican lands on the slough
beside the barn–
a gawkish bird gliding
onto the murky water,
a flap and beating of wings–
then, a hump of white feathers suspended,
the long orange bill tucked
against his chest.

Pelicans usually stay in large groups
like a carnival of white and orange,
a noisy bunch on parade
content with no less than a feast.
Their feats can marvel, indeed:
gulping and swallowing fish whole,
squawking and swooping to fill pouches.
Young mouths drop open
in hungry wonder.

Many minutes pass
while the moment remains
on the still water
where algae spread
and reeds grow thickly
concealing a thousand watching eyes.
The motionless pelican floats–
posing, as if waiting
to be painted.

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Mary Belardi Erickson was born in New Jersey and today lives in the countryside of Minnesota. Her work appears in various online magazines and in print, including the Aurorean, Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream, and Avocet: Journal of Nature Poems. Her poems appear in Silver Boomer’s From the Porch Swing €”memories of our grandparents, and Sephryrus Press’s No Fresh Cut Flowers: The Afterlife Anthology.  Her e-chapbook, Back-stepping Between Two Bridges, can be read at www.victorianvioletpress.com.   To read more of Mary’s poetry at WIZ click here and here.

€œLate Spring Ringmaster € was previously published in Avocet: Journal of Nature Poems.

*contest entry*

WIZ’s 2011 Spring Poetry Runoff Contest and Celebration begins!

800px-Western_Meadowlark_singing

Light’s rise sparks bright blooms:
birdsong, fields of it, vining–
spring’s first green flourish.

These mornings, I step outside my back door to hear the hush of winter thrown off by a clamor of birdsong–the crackle of starlings, jazzy riffs of purple house finches, a lonely two-syllable call from a flycatcher,   screeches and churrings of magpies, ravens’ gravelly croaks, a woodpecker drumming a juniper tree, jangling songs of meadowlarks outshouting everyone.   Quite stunning, this send-off of the season of low, cold light.   And I can’t help but detect in the intertwining of different avian dialects the bloom of flowery beauty and signature fragrances of meaning.

The language of the birds, or the green language, is the mythical, magical language of wisdom and divine insight thought to pass between birds and those humans with ears to hear the music of the cosmos with which birdsong is thought to be impregnated.   Some traditions equate la langue verte with the adamic or perfect language.   Many folks might consider any relation between birdsong and human utterances and comprehension illusory.   But if you listen closely, you will hear chirps in the language of many species ranging from rodents (prairie dogs’ alarm calls sound bird-ish, and the noisy grasshopper mouse chirrups constantly) to cats (chirps and trills) to amphibians (our Woodhouse toads pip at us) to insects to puppies to people–especially babies.   My nearly 19-year-old disabled daughter, who can understand more words than she can say, chirps, hoots, and trills in response to questions and other words of address.   After nearly two decades of studying her bird-like, tonal language, I think I can rightly claim that I’ve gained from it deep, magical insight–including into the quiddity of human expression.   Because of my experience with her and what I think I hear in the language of birds and other animals and insects, I’ve begun to wonder if, rather than acting as the basic phoneme of   a foreign language spoken by creatures with which we think ourselves to have little in common, the chirp might just lie at the root of human expression.

Whatever else it’s said to be, the mythical language of the birds is highly poetic, layered with multiple strata of meaning, playful, punful, sliding, gliding, beguiling to the ear when performed aloud, and, when conveyed in written interchange, deeply engaging of the mind’s inner ear.

For WIZ’s 2011 Spring Poetry Runoff and Celebration, let’s see if we can outshine the birds in their spring ceremonies.   Human language can be just as green and gorgeous, just as textured and as alluring as the language of the birds.   And when it comes to the opening of new prospects and possibilities, human language can have no rival.   Even the language of the birds lags behind the best effects of the best human language: opening-the-possibilities acts of authentic creation.   Poetry, with its multifaceted, many-leveled effects and metaphoric prowess–its strength for getting across–can create, so to speak, more world.   As John D. Niles says in Homo Narrans: The Poetics and Anthropology of Oral Narrative, “It is through such symbolic mental activities [as storytelling and poetry] that people have gained the ability to create themselves as human beings and thereby transform the world of nature into shapes not known before.”

So this Spring Poetry Runoff, let’s go green in our language.   I don’t mean Green, as in supportive of social or political movements touting environmental protection.   In some cases, that language is the least green of all.   I mean let’s go green, as in producing living, doing, being language that acts to open possibilities by virtue of its creative élan.   I mean let’s give out words that don’t just describe experience, they create experience, providing raw materials that others can recombine for their own narrative needs, thus altering, here and there, world and worlds.   Referencing John Miles Foley, Niles   calls this cosmoplastic, or “world-building” energy of human language, “wordpower.”

During this year’s Spring Poetry Runoff Contest and Celebration, we’ll not only be running the poetry contest with prizes in the Most Popular Vote Award and Admin Award categories but also an open-invitation haiku chain (a developing tradition on WIZ), a non-competing category for those poets wishing to participate in the Spring Poetry Runoff just for fun, the Runoff Rerun (re-publishing of one of last year’s poems), and other activities.

Hope you join in.   It’s spring.   Let’s sing it up.

To review submission deadlines, rules, voting procedures, and prizes, go here.

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Photo of singing western meadowlark by Alan Vernon.

Field Notes #8

October 2, 2009.   This morning, as I walk down the road toward Crossfire, I barely avoid stepping on a small, silver-and-grey-winged butterfly sitting on the pavement, trying, I think, to warm itself after our first night of ice-on-the-dog’s-dish cold.   The insect’s coloration matches that of surrounding gravel.   Only its thin wings and their accompanying shadow tip me off in time.   I veer.   Very slightly, the upfolded wings lean away from my foot swinging past.   It’s hard to not step on something that looks like a piece of your path. Continue reading “Field Notes #8”

Got flight?

I thought it might be nice to make this Got Flight Week on WIZ’s People Month.   Posts this week will play with the question: Can humans fly?   If you’ve had a flying dream or other liberating experience related to flying, please, feel free to post  it in comments to this post or others published this week or submit your  flight narrative to WIZ.

One of my hobbies is collecting words carrying the meaning of €œunderstanding € and whose root words are bound up in the metaphorical pairing of perceiving and grasping €”of aligning the focus of attention on something and the physical act of laying hold  upon or seizing.   The American Heritage Dictionary gives the following definition for €œunderstand €: To perceive or comprehend the nature and significance of; grasp. See synonyms at apprehend. €   There follow three more definitions relying upon the words €œcomprehend € and €œgrasp. €   At the heart of both €œapprehend € and €œcomprehend € lies the Latin root prehendere, €œto seize. €

Here is a partial list of other words and phrases conveying the concept of understanding that contain root words set in the act of grasping or seizing: Continue reading “Got flight?”