Saturday, February 4, 2012

Listen to the Mockingbird

It's February. Already the new year is a month old. Here in South Florida that means we are on the cusp of springtime. I know that from more than a decade of experience in wintering in these subtropics, but yesterday the shift in seasons was made manifest by a mockingbird. For the first time this year I heard his aria rise on the wind from atop the parotis palm waving at the marina's walkway below our lanai. That fellow will find a mate soon, I thought. His complex love song continued for two or more lively, lilting minutes, a virtuoso performance of vernal desire. Then he was off to another perch, his brownish black-and-white wings twirling like a whirligig lawn ornament twirling in a stiff breeze. He returns again this morning on his urgent rounds of the condo grounds, oblivious to Hutch and Ellie, our association president and his wife, uncovering the pool below the avian performer in preparation for their daily laps. As I watch them I'm thinking of the wood violets we'll soon be seeing coming into bloom as we hike the local preserves.

Even friends and loved ones back home in Western New York, who so far have enjoyed a relatively mild winter, are noticing spring's immanence: it's the lengthening of days. An email correspondent, John Heiser, a back-country ranger at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, remarked last week that already there are 47 minutes more daylight since the Winter Solstice.

These days of growing light move at their usual fast clip. There aren't enough hours in the day for this full-time poet to keep up with submission deadlines much less escape for a few hours' writing time. That'll come. Meanwhile, I've enjoyed some successes in my craft that I'd like to share with you, hoping you won't find me immodest to note that...

...January saw the publication in vox poetica of the title poem from my new collection, The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica. (I ask all my faithful readers who ordered a copy to please be patient. Your copy will be arriving soon, so says the publisher!). This link gives you a sneak preview of what to expect:

...My environmental activism continues but has in recent months expanded to include social justice issues. A small indication of this newly-found dimension of concern for my fellow humans -- the 99% -- can be glimpsed in five poems recently published in Poems on the Great Recession. See and you'll read how my activism twines concern for humanity with concern for the planet. Then jump over to Poet-activist-friend Dwain Wilder of Rochester, NY, and I co-edited the new Liberty's Vigil, The Occupy Anthology: 99 Poets among the 99%, now available from that link to FooHills Publishing. The book hit bookshelves on January 15 -- only nine weeks after I first conceived it. My sincere thanks to Dwain, the Czarnecki family at FHP and our fellow 97 poets. It's not to be missed...

...And, yesterday, I received word that two of my poems received Honorable Mention prizes in the Lois Beebe Hayna Awards administered by Poetry West. The two poems are published now in the Winter 2011-2012 issue of PW's The Eleventh Muse. Here's one of the two poems:

At “VV 74 Fate Bell”
Archeological Site

Willingly in thirst
I step through
your red portal.

Here is the only
way, one you had
painted with iron

oxide, bone marrow
and sotol on a limestone
wall beneath a broad

canopy streaked black
with manganese. Such
is the tenacious strength

of your art that
Cretaceous-era rock
parts, canyon enfolds

my body. I succumb.
O my Hunter,
I am your Gatherer

come to decipher
the ochre thread
of your story line

human generations
later, in a fiery flicker

of shamanic time.
For here, this now,
I am Pecos River Woman,

a trace of yellow
yucca twine, who
binds herself slowly

to your sacred staff.
Willingly in hunger
I receive, retrieve

seeds of your enchanted
genius and do return
from my entrancement

within your ancient
stone to my people,
full of your wild mind.

I then sing of your vivid
petroglyphs on the living
side so all may

remember you, remember our
brief prehistory, and this:
young love’s landing.

Believe it or not, that poem, dating to summer '08, went to 21 editors before being accepted -- with honors, no less.

That's all very good news, but life is such that sad news becomes part of this hopeful pre-spring season. I must pause to reflect...

...on the recent sudden death at 78 of beloved friend and colleague Don O'Neil. Don was a big man -- of stature and spirit -- with whom I was friends for nearly 30 years. We worked together in the '80s and '90s as fellow wordsmiths in the ad biz. While a love of the crafted word brought us together, a deeper friendship forged over the years over many a basket of chicken wings at our favorite Rochester haunt, Beale Street, where we shared a passion for political news, geology, movies, Raymond Chandler mysteries.... In the Irish tradition, Don was a storyteller nonpareil with a rebel soul to boot. He was an iconoclast who reminded me not to mindlessly bow to authority. When he laughed, he bellowed from his expansive belly. Oh, Don, my friend, I miss you so.

About a week later, I learned John Kuchera, another "adland" colleague died. Although John and I had not remained in touch during the years since we both left the insanity of the biz behind, I will always remember him for the creative genius he was. Artist, cartoonist, wit, imp. Kuch, the world has lost one of its most generous spirits. But I find comfort in knowing his art -- all those whimsical Kuch cats among it! -- lives on...on the walls of my home as he does in my heart.

Tonight, I will look to the spring stars and find I doubt not two new ones in the heavens above the Caloosahatchee River that slowly rolls by my North Fort Myers windows to the Gulf of Mexico. Goodnight, Don. Goodnight, Kuch. You shine on.