Still Life with Hummingbird (61)

When the hawk leaves, I go outside the gate to get the newspaper. I stand beside the tecoma bush, enjoying its bright yellow blooms. Then the way a thin crescent moon reveals itself in a pale blue afternoon sky from one moment to the next, I see the hummingbird. He is upside down. He must have died perched on the small twig, his tiny talons still wrapped around it. I slide him off, place him in the shallow blue ceramic bowl I bought last month at the funky yearly sale here in the trailer park. I pick tecoma blossoms and bougainvillea, lay them in the bowl with him, one curved beside his beak, nectar for his journey to the world that lives here beside our own. I find a polished stone in my cupboard, small, not quite round. I lay it near his head, and it seems his companion in the greens and blacks and ruby reds of it, the two of them like gems beside each other.

Ode to Corn Plants and Pelicans (57)

Young corn plants growing, bright green shoots unfolding into leaves that bend and curve, little beings in the moist dirt. I don’t think I’ve ever met a happier plant than corn plants. But maybe in part it is the way they grow together that makes this true, that they sprout up in kinship with the other corn plants around them. Maybe they are happy because they are in community. Today they make me think of the brown pelicans gathered on the broad, sandy beach outside Todos Santos in Baja California Sur. They stood upright, too, in clusters, alert, their kind eyes watching me, old souls. Maybe corn folk are old souls, too.

1000 Tiny Princes (51)

Saturday evening
a house across the creekbed
blasts music
but the frogs make it okay
make it tolerable
so many voices
loud
plaintive
happy
contradictory
ceaseless call and response
so many
I remember years ago
after the rain
tiny frogs
everywhere
on the path
so many
you had to watch
every time
where you put your foot.

About My Writing (44)

Two weeks ago I did a little ritual just before I left town. I asked for help with my writing, with my resistance to writing. I asked to have fun, to be pulled toward my writing instead of away. It was quick but heartfelt. Now I am in my second week of a 4-week writing class about voices, a teacherless class from Creative Nonfiction. And I’m getting a big kick out of it. The assignment I talked about in yesterday’s poem is from that class. I’ve been doing all the work, eager to complete the lessons, the exercises, to play, to practice. (Often in the past when I signed up for a self-paced class like this I ended up not carving out the time to do the work. But this time it’s different.) Reading Gertrude Stein’s letters for the assignment was entrancing, falling into her familiar cadence, so easy, feeling her voice like an old friend, one I knew well decades ago, the way that carries over, even if you visit seldom in all the years between. After, I became engrossed in the writing. I began at dusk, and then it was 8:30 when I surfaced. Such a sweetness, that sense of getting lost in the writing even when each moment feels so engaging, carried away by the act but very much present. A delicious paradox, a big gift. Thank you. Thank you.

Imitating Gertrude Stein (43)

The assignment, to imitate a voice
so I read her letters to a friend
letter after letter
as dusk deepens
and white-crowned sparrows
chatter in the courtyard
and go silent
I write my little piece
into the dark
so easy to fall into her voice
familiar and dear to me
for forty-three years.

January 29, 2020 or First Song (39)

It’s a little windy out, and only 56 degrees in my trailer home, late morning. But I have my sliding glass door wide open anyway, inviting in the world. I’ve finished my chores, and I’m propped up in bed, cozy warm, watching my mountains and my bougainvillea, sipping hot spearmint tea. I’ve been sick, some lingering now in my throat, my chest, my ear. While I watch, two mockingbirds come. One lands on the edge of my neighbors’ carport. The other perches on the tip of a bougainvillea stem. I can’t tell if there’s a territory thing going on or a courting thing. Just then, while I’m enjoying these two mockingbirds and already dreaming one of them might make this their summer home for late-night singing, I hear loud unexpected song from the electric pole outside my window. It stops me, this crisp, clear burst of song, washes through me, dear, familiar, absent for a long time. This third mockingbird doesn’t sing long, but I can still hear him inside me as I write, sharp beloved memory, first song of the season.

Otherworldly (36)

The mystery black birds appear in the guayaba tree in the late afternoon. They perch and poke for seeds, awkward at the three tube feeders I’ve hung for my house finch. I watch through the open louvers in the back room. I thought they sounded familiar when I heard them in the morning on the telephone pole, but now I have a front row seat. They are red-winged blackbirds! I am in love with them, the females especially, so subtle and intricate—light, bright brushstrokes of paint across their blackness. Watching them in all their quiet glory takes me back to when I lived in Cotati, and I would walk out behind one of the old Hewlett Packard campuses at the end of the day. (It was a walk my friend Meri introduced me to.) Red-winged blackbirds perched on every bush and thrust of stem in an open field. I stood on the edge of the road and listened to the magic, lilting songs, waves of music echoing around me in the late dusk.