Friday, December 27, 2013

A Tale of Two Birds

Bird shit?  If there are to be birds, if there is to be the beauty of birds, there’s going to be bird shit on your safari hat. Owl shit hits with a plop of tiny bones and down. You wash it off your life and get on to the beauty.

            Fact is, a lot of us are having shitty days, some shittier than others. Plus holiday stresses. And maybe the heavy emotional whammies of Solstice with cancer, or Christmas without your father for the first time, or Hanukah with the threat of expiring unemployment benefits.

            Enter the beautiful bird in the photograph above, the secretary bird of East Africa that Roger and I saw one morning on the Maasai Mara in western Kenya. Beauty.

            I remember her, too, in a poem these three months later. Her tale is in the form of a tanka (five lines of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables, another gift like haiku and haibun from the Japanese), a form I chose to mimic her crown feathers.


African feathers
fanned, forming her white headdress—
secretary bird—
Serengeti’s adornment
of savannah most holy.

            Roger and I remember what it was to behold her timeless beauty…beauty to be shared with friends, family, fans, fellow travelers – and you, my readers. Beauty to alleviate -- if only for a moment -- your private pains of heart, mind and spirit.

(If you would like to immerse yourself in more African beauty, by all means, go to my latest Shutterfly photo book at  and let beauty amaze you.)


           I am the other bird in this tale of two, a snowbird mated to a snowbird nesting happily in Florida condoland with wildlands close by…and every day the Caloosahatchee River flowing past our lanai where we watch the boats go by, watch sunrises, watch moonrises.

            But it isn’t all a birds-of-paradise life. On our annual mecca to my holy land, the Everglades, our Florida Bay campsite handed us a plague of whining salt mosquitos where we were expecting egret beauty.  Deet means nothing to them. Instead, we smeared blood all over the tent walls – my blood in tiny swollen skeeter bellies. We didn’t stay a second much less a third planned night. I counted 26 bites in a few short hours. Yet we survived, of course, to laugh about our suffering through allergic reactions and fear. And, as we departed the national park, we took time, dodging egret shit, to see the beauty of my angel of the morning rising over the River of Grass.

            There was also a certain recent Saturday night we spent in the ER at Cape Coral Hospital, driven there in a panic due to a sharp spike in Roger’s blood pressure.  He came out of it just fine, and is now in the care of a local physician who’s keeping an eye on him.

            In the end, the snowbirds who are lovebirds try to keep the focus on beauty, all expletives deleted.

            As you-know-what it can be, our eye turns to hawk, shrike, heron – any bird in sight for its beautiful healing spirit, which I share with you via a poem in the form of a skink (one of my five-line jobbies, if you recall).



I know precisely what it is to fall
under the spell of Florida’s full moon
too soon waning toward winter solstice
going as the amber river goes.
I fully understand Floridian moonlight is spelled o-w-l.


            May you celebrate the new year with beauty.  In any form.


And, should you like to read more, see more of my work, here are links to a few recent publications:

·         Two poems, “Happenstance: Run Off to Sea” and “Hunger,” appeared along with an illustrative photograph of the trawlers referenced in the former poem. My sincere thanks to editor Michael McDermott for including me in this tribute issue, “Earth, Spirit, Society,” dedicated to his wife and Black Earth Institute partner, Patricia Monaghan. See:

·         Out recently was my poem “Drilling Down” in Borderbend’s WTFrack 2013. Look for it at
·         My most recent book review is of Anne Whitehouse’s The Refrain, entitled “’“the lost jewelry showed up;’” it appeared along with my memorial essay, “on Robert C. “Beau” Cutts,” in The Centrifugal Eye’s Autumn 2013 issue, available at:
·         Look for three of my poems and photographs on the new National Parks Art site. As a former Everglades Artist-in-Residence, I’m delighted that a sampling of the work I did during my residency continues to reach beyong the park’s borders. Go to this link and scroll down a bit:
·         And many, many thanks many times over to Amy Huffman at Kind of  a Hurrican Press, she and co-editor April Salzano have brought out two new anthologies since I last posted.  You’ll find my poem “Ahh, Florida Grief” in In Gilded Frame, my poem “#427:  Saving Everything” is in What’s Your Sign? To order, go to: