Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gathering Up Brokenness

I’ve been stymied for three+ weeks about how to do what I wanted to do: weave a great horned owl and Leonard Cohen into a single cohesive blog posting.  Then it dawned on me; I’ll just plunk those two disparate elements down on the page the same way life presented them to me.  First one, then the other. Bam. Bam. Hmmm…surprising juxtapositioning may amuse.

First, I give this post lift off with Bubo virginianus, the owl who came to tea towards sunset on Site #97 at Everglades National Park’s Long Pine Key campground on the Vernal Equinox Eve. (See

There we were, my beloved Roger and I, in the March evening light, pale half-moon overhead the eve of the Leonard Cohen concert in nearby Maimi, listening to the master of song’s most famous song, Hallelujah on my MP3 player broadcast over minipod speaker. I was trying to convey to Roger that it’s the greatest anthem of love of the modern era. Everybody’s recorded it. A whole book has been written about this one song by The New York Times contributor Alan Light.  I’d just read it to psych myself for the concert. Now this is Leonard Cohen at his best, I pronounced as Roger dutifully tuned in, sipping his Honeybush tea, nibbling an I’d-Marry-You-All-Over-Again cookie.

Suddenly a sharp cry came from just behind our site at pine forest edge.

What’s that? Catbird? Nah, can’t be, I said.

Roger reached across the upended bin “table,” put his left hand on my arm and with his right hand pointed up toward the trees.

Ohmigod, a great horned owl, I whispered. Lo and behold, there was the great big bird in full view lording it over us from only thirty feet back and thirty feet up, staring down on us. With one tap of a fingertip, I shut down my gizmo  Mid-Hallelujah.  Halle— And in the ensuing quiet, I whispered, Ohmigod, it’s a hallelujah owl! The great horned was a great gift from the Universe delivered to us and us alone at Site #97.

Since my camera was right there, I didn’t even have to launch myself out of my camp chair; I just leaned to the right, held my hands steady and shot.  And shot. And shot. In low Everglades evening’s subtropical light, I captured the hallelujah owl. Then I put my camera down to just stare back.

He cried twice more. It wasn’t the usual basso profundo Who? hoot, but a fierce one-note cry, one piercing deep screech. A mating call? His Bubo hallelujah?

Roger held my hand and we watched the magisterial creature in silence until he swooped silently away. We figured a good five minutes we’d sat in the great one’s great presence on Vernal Equinox Eve.

The next night? The great man himself at the William P. Knight Center. Forty-five years I’d been following Leonard Cohen and for the first time, on the Equinox no less, I got to see him in person. Ever since Suzanne, in the 1960s, near the beginning of his music career. This year I’m sixty, and he’s seventy-nine, two years’ shy of Roger.

And you know what? Leonard’s still doing it like a pro.  I’m still swooning.

For three-and-a-half hours, maybe thirty songs – including Hallelujah with the entire house singing the chorus – the man did it to me sooooooooooooo good. And Roger too was mesmerized to be with me in Cohen’s great presence at my all-time, best-ever musical experience, yes, the very best of my lifetime.

Goodness, how do you synthesize that great owl, that great man? How bind together into an unbroken skein of words? A poem answered:

Following Leonard Cohen’s Lead

Hallelujah owl – the great horned who-er
of Everglades pines, magisterial, mythical
by Equinox Eve half-moon, come
to gather up our brokenness on silent wings.

Hallelujah stilt – black-necked ilk
skating spring Equinox shallows,
score of more on skinny legs come
to gather up our brokenness, banish the hunger.

Hallelujah storks, hallelujah spoonbills—
woodies and pinkos of Parotis Pond’s
rookeries, dozens abuzz as if come
to gather up our brokenness with procreation.

Hallelujah, birds— we fly, we feed, we breed
the wild, our imagination made entire.

                                    for Roger


P.S. Having celebrated Roger’s 81st birthday last week with an outing to Lovers Key beach one last time this winter, we now prepare to depart for home on Sunday. As I pack up for the season, I’ll leave behind for you, dear reader,  these humble gifts of poetry.

  • I’ve made a new poet –friend in ghazal master Gene Doty, who edits The Ghazal Page, a journal devoted to the ancient Persian poetic form. In March, to my delight, he published three of my ghazals in March. To read two of them, go to

And, please, if you haven’t done so already, order a copy of my new Lithic Scatter and Other Poems:  Or, drop me an email to get a signed copy (with no shipping/handling fees).

And, take note: Coming in May:  My new book of poetry and photography, Attaining Canopy: Amazon Poems from FootHills Publishing.

Also, if you’re in the Western New York area this spring, please join me for my official launch reading for both Lithic Scatter and Attaining Canopy. That’s Saturday, May 18 at 2 p.m. at Lift Bridge Book Store, 45 Main Street, Brockport, NY. It’s free and open to the public; refreshments will be served and I’ll be signing books.

Happy spring to all!  And thank you for reading.