Memorial Day

paul sayre s

My mother’s cousin Paul was a pilot who was shot down and killed in WWII. She often spoke of him with admiration and affection.

When my mother died, she left boxes of unidentified family photos; my aunt helped a bit with identifications, but she was much younger than her siblings, and had not known the southern Ohio cousins very well.  In my mother’s address book, I found her second cousin Mona, Paul’s niece, who patiently looked through many photo scans I emailed her.

Finally I had a face to put to my mother’s words.

silence speaks your name–
through distant shadows of trees
crow answers, calling

fog 1s

This is a revision of a post from 2015.  However we are spending this day, let’s take a moment to remember those who served their country and sacrificed their lives so that we could enjoy our own.

For Frank Tassone’s #Haikai Challenge #140, Memorial Day.

Obituaries (revised)

obituaries s

the language of gone–
a call without a response,
so loud it can’t be

heard—a silence entombed in
itself—on the other side

My poem “Obituaries”, is one of the responses to Joaquin Torres Garcia’s painting, “Pintura” (below), posted on The Ekphrastic Review today.  The three poems on this post were composed from parts of it.

Picture

Frank at dVerse challenged us to write some 5-line Japanese form poems.  I must confess that I like the 5-7-5-7-7 form of the tanka, now considered by purists to be false.  Whatever you call it, I still think it works well as a way to focus thought and express feelings.

the language of absence
language of gone
the before of never
silence entombed
the language of death

obituaries close up 1s

The new definitions for writing tanka and haiku confuse me, and I have no idea how to write something that will satisfy the powers that be, although I keep writing 3 and 5-line poems.  And although I recognize a well-written gogyohka, and understand the single line-single breath idea, I have difficulty naming anything I’ve written with that label as well.

language
forbidden
remains
a response
of absence

obituaries close up 2a

But and so…in my continued pruning mode, I’ve taken the posted poem (which was itself severely pruned several times) and turned it into three 5-line poems.  Hopefully they fit the dVerse prompt in some manner.

My thanks to editor Lorette C. Luzajic for once again featuring my work.  You can see my poem “Obituaries”–the original from which these 5-line poems were taken–and read all the other responses as well, here.

the way out is also the way in

the way out s

a journey far from home
outside of existence
filled with voices
containing only silence

outside of existence
the mirror turns away
containing only silence
the echoes of opening

the mirror turns away
reflected in portals
the echoes of opening
where time remains lost

reflected in portals
held in absentia
all time remains lost
until the stars sing

held in absentia
amid the unexplained
until the stars sing
souls crossing over

amid the unexplained
filled with voices
souls crossing over
a journey returning home

the way out close up 1s

Another pantoum.  Ammol at dVerse asks us to consider portals.

the way out close up 2s

The Language of Birds

am robin drawing s

There are robins.  Everywhere.  When I wake, early with the sun, I hear them over the street sounds of Broadway.  When I walk along the path of Riverside Park they stop in front of me, deliberately, waiting to look me in the eye before I’m allowed to continue on my way.  Even as I pass dozens all over the grasses on either side of the path, I hear others singing in the surrounding trees.

My daughter suspects a nest in a nearby window to her apartment—she sends a text with a recording—“day and night,” she says.

painted starling s

As she sits by her window working from home, she tells me she sees starlings on the window ledge across the street—“they leap off and let themselves fall a few feet before opening their wings”—we both wonder if this is normal.

I hear a whistle and turn to look—two starlings take off right in front of me and fly towards the river.  I see a fledgling by the park wall.  The only thing it moves as I approach cautiously is its head—with the bright yellow beak against the grey feathers, it too must be a starling—can it fly?—where are its parents?  I snap a photo and walk on.  When I pass the same spot, returning home, it is gone.

fledgling s

In the mornings the gulls swoop in groups, weaving patterns around the piece of moon that still sits ghostly in the blueing sky.  They cry like cats suspended in mid-air, echoing off the buildings into my window.

mockingbird open wings s

A mockingbird moves just ahead of me as I cross the bridge to the park.  It never stops singing, going through its repertoire while waiting for me to almost catch up as it hurries ahead again.  Another day, I am walking uptown instead of down, and a mockingbird lands on the iron fence just ahead of me.  It too is deliberate in meeting my gaze, making sure I stop, nod my head in greeting.  Further on a catbird does exactly the same thing.  A cardinal swoops down into the grass by a nearby tree, a flash of red that pauses with me before it returns to the top of the tree.  I hear more cardinals, blue jays and flickers. Sparrows chatter and cover the grass and path, the bushes and trees; pigeons share the stone walkway, and once, also, a morning dove.  Sometimes the pigeons visit my window ledge.

house sparrow drawing 1s

And crow.  Crow has been following me around for years.  Now he teases me, calling, in front, behind, from nowhere and everywhere.  Every once in awhile I am the winner in this game of hide and seek, but I know it’s only because he wants me to see him, to acknowledge his appearance as well as his voice.  A murder of crows appears ahead of me on one of my earliest walks, when I was still fearful of going out at all.

crow 2s

I’ve always walked, never having owned a car.  But it was with a purpose, to get from one placed to another.  Now I just walk.  And I have always been aware of birds while walking. But since the lockdown they seem to be multiplying by the day, boldly communicating—something, what?

neocolor cardinal s

Many of the world’s cultures see birds as mediators, messengers between the human and the divine.  I know what crow is telling me.  He knows I need reminding of it, too:  pay attention.  Get out of that inner conversation you keep having with yourself and look around, listen, be where you are.  Robins are symbols everywhere of new beginnings, transformation, tenacity, hope.  Birds show us the power of community, the power of voices, the symbiotic relationship between the earth and all living creatures.

These are the days of Covid-19 in the city of New York.  Humans are hiding; birds are out in force.

seagull 3s

In fairy tales, those who understand the language of birds have magical powers.

days
collapse expand
places of between

between
material spiritual
no time exists

wings
open to
carry us home

corvus s

I’ve been doing Draw-a-Bird Day on the 8th of the month for a few years now at MethodTwoMadness, accumulating most of these illustrations in the process.

For the earthweal challenge Vast Particulars.