After Before


After Before

A return to that
time when silence

reigned. The neighbor’s
guinea fowl have long

departed, but three cedars
drop needles in the driveway

even as reluctant growth
pushes out from the oaks’

limbs. Nothing circles
below the clouds, no

roosters crow. Feeders
hang still and empty.

The wrens remain
cloistered. You read

these events as separate
birdless chapters, all

hushed in the dappled
air, passages carried

yet confined by nearly
soundless threads

suspended from the
persimmon tree. You admit

a status as sentient
protein, one meal among

many, while you rest
and absorb

the soft ticking
of eighteen eager

juvenile mantises
on the porch screen.


“After Before” first appeared here in December 2015.

The Language of Birds


The Language of Birds
(for Lydia)

Something thrown beyond
light: a stone,

words. The language of birds
evades us but for the simplest

measure. And how can we comprehend
those who live with the

wind when our own
bodies seem far away? In the darkness
certain sounds come clearer, as if in

absence one finds strength, the evidence
gathered with every breath. Speech is,
of course, not the answer. We release

what we must, and in turn are released.

* * *

This first appeared on the blog in April 2015 – another oldie dug out of a folder. I wrote it for my niece perhaps twenty-eight years ago, and don’t believe it was ever published. It felt good to finally release it to the light and air.


Aubade (Inca Dove)


Aubade (Inca Dove)

Such delicacy
evokes the evolution of hand
and wing, a growth

reflecting all we’ve come
to know. Two doves

sit on the fence, cold wind ruffling
their feathers. What brings them
to this place of no

shelter, of wind and rain
and clarity defied? Fingers

often remember what the mind
cannot. Silence
complicates our mornings.

This last appeared here in October 2016, and was originally published in The Balcones Review in 1987. Seems I was enthralled with birds back then, too…





Withdrawn, it unfolds
to another
voice, like that

of a child lost in the wind.
Or, lonely, it rises from its place

and sings, only
to return and start again.
The pleasure we accept derives from

the knowledge that we are not alone.
Each morning we walk out and sit
by the stones, hoping to observe some

new patterns in his life. What we
see is an answer. What we hear is no song.

* * *


“Mockingbird” made its first appearance here in January 2015. It was written
in the 1980s, probably around 1987-1989.

Nocturne (Blue Grosbeak)


Nocturne (Blue Grosbeak)

Why tremble
when nothing
arrives to be seen?

The architecture
of the day
comes and goes

in the same
a disturbance

more felt than heard.
But listen.
The grosbeak sings

his presence
and departs,
leaving behind

the echo
of a motion
blending with night.

The air is cool.
A leaf utters
its own message

and falls
Nothing awaits it.

* * *

This last appeared in November  2016.



Originally published in 1987 in a short-lived publication called The Balcones Review, this is the opening of a longer work. Today, as I look out my window at that same tree, I hear the birds, no longer silent.




the wind is what
the stillness
desires to say
each instant
collapsing into itself
like a bud
to the seed

the birds in my tree
are silent
as echoes
before their brief
lives are

something thrashes
in the leaves
the feather
is not only what
it is

as the candle
is more
than flame
or a moment

to darkness

the question
is of clarity

I built a frame
but placed
nothing in it

the wind
blows through
quietly as if
between silences
there exists
only silence or

the familiar embrace




Diverting Silence

Diverting Silence

Wren canyons down the morning’s edge, proclaiming dawn.
Unpapered, unfettered, fearless, he abides.

I say “he,” but sexual dimorphism is not apparent in the species.
Accepting signals, we process and choose, freighting gender aside.

Listening requires contextual interpretation, as does belief.
Shrilling to the porch screen, he spears a moth, veers outward.

An acquaintance claims birds are soulless, existing only to serve God.
As temple bells exist solely to announce, and rain, to water lawns.

Faith’s immensity looms in the absence of proof.
Spherical and hollow, suzu bells contain pellets.

The search for truth without error does not preclude fact.
Even tongueless bells ring.

“Diverting Silence” was published in Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art in February 2017.