The Drummer

I heard him again

 mighty woodpecker

of the forest

raucous and imprudent.

I am not used to

his harsh

staccotoed laughter or

during the fall

his ceaseless drumming…

Victorian holes

appear on desiccated limbs

One could almost imagine

the oval doorways

becoming ‘homes’

for those of us who have lost our way?

Living in liminal space l walk on air with the ground disappearing beneath under my feet. Why is it that woodpeckers are so vocal during these deadly periods? This ‘King’ of the Forest is normally very quiet in the fall but this year his drumming and crazed laughter startle the forest folk….

Woodpeckers create holes…. as we wait for election returns the American ‘king’ at the helm denies he lost. He may be right.

The woodpecker has a skull that protects him from madness while he drums; the man does not.

Red Oak Prayer

Red Oak

you were a

patient seedling 

who waited years for

a green door to open

 beyond a cobalt sky.

The fallen pine

offered you ‘the way.’ 

At last you shine!

Bittersweet orange

and scarlet,

oversized leaves

tenaciously holding on

when most others

 are withering away.

 Light winds,

 gifts of rain,

maple leaves 

and scented needles  

compost your future.

Deep roots meet with 

Pine People

Your friends I’m told,

fusing mycorrhizal threads

into complex patterns

that stretch across

the forest floor,

 All search for minerals:

nitrogen, phosphorous,

precious water too. 

Nourished, you thrive.

Not even insect

damaged leaves

can still your will to live.

I feel you

singing a love song

to the sun.

Eat all the light

you need during

this golden autumn

  • before winter

slows your blood

and you fall asleep.

Dreaming Our Future.

 I hug you

with hungry eyes

wondering who

planted your seed.

Was it cached by

Squirrel or Jay?

From acorn to tree –

From DNA to Form.

Horizontal Gene Transfer?

Grow straight

and tall.

Leaf out, unfurl

 pointed fingers. 

 Deep verdant green is

  summer shade.

Come fall

the Oak Fields of Yore

will strengthen each limb

as you sleep,

 nurturing and protecting

the Wise Wo/Man

you already are.


W. S. Merwin

 In that tenth winter of your exile
the cold never letting go of you
and your hunger aching inside you 
day and night while you heard the voices 
out of the starving mouths around you 
old ones and infants and animals 
those curtains of bones swaying on stilts 
and you heard the faint cries of the birds 
searching in the frozen mud for something 
to swallow and you watched the migrants 
trapped in the cold the great geese growing 
weaker by the day until their wings 
could barely lift them above the ground 
so that a gang of boys could catch one 
in a net and drag him to market 
to be cooked and it was then that you 
saw him in his own exile and you 
paid for him and kept him until he 
could fly again and you let him go 
but then where could he go in the world 
of your time with its wars everywhere 
and the soldiers hungry the fires lit 
the knives out twelve hundred years ago

I have been wanting to let you know 
the goose is well he is here with me 
you would recognize the old migrant 
he has been with me for a long time 
and is in no hurry to leave here 
the wars are bigger now than ever 
greed has reached numbers that you would not 
believe and I will not tell you what 
is done to geese before they kill them 
now we are melting the very poles 
of the earth but I have never known 
where he would go after he leaves me.

Lise’s response to Merwin’s poem…


all those years of exile of hunger of privation the goose let go in a world in which there is nowhere for him to go then reaching into the future to find a home. 

we want to know all the suffering has not been in vain. we pray for continuance. we think maybe a miracle… 

we thought we deserved it when the whale came to us in the harbor having made her way upriver we jumped for joy after all those months of grim tallies. 

 when  she brought them to the SPCA such a leap of faith…  her toddlers, her babies, they came over from England with her, and now  she is dropping them off  in their cages. Who adopts siblings at 10 years old?  

I have been wanting to let you know

The goose is well he is here with me

You would recognize the old migrant

He has been with me for a long time

And is in no hurry to leave. 

Can’t the poem just end here? Like Hopkins’ and for all that there lives the dearest freshness deep down things…. Could it not end with bright wings?  with “Ah—bright wings”  Yes give us that “AHHH” isn’t that what poems are for? give us an “ah” an occasion to sigh, deeply.

But no the wars are bigger now than ever greed has reached numbers that you would not/believe  and it gets worse Now we are melting the very poles/Of the earth but….

But…yes please but!!!. But I have never known oh please the balm of miracle which always surpasses our knowing –yes– reward the years of fattening of plumping of storing up  the effort of working your way up the river ….  

But I have never known/Where he would go after he leaves me     

But I have never known/Where he would go after he leaves me

I have to read these lines twice …. such vertiginous tenses . Where  he would go I have never known.  Future tense abandoned replaced by conditional. Where there is no future there can be no future tense 

So this is where you’re going to leave me poet? Twelve hundred hears ago I could have set him free to fly into the future…… and now….. now where?

But I have wanted to let you know that I adopted those siblings. I did.  They are 13 now and have settled in quite well. We  quarantine together and for days at a time they are  the only living beings my hands can hold.

Lise Weil 

Postscript: Lise has been a friend and mentor for so many years that I lost count long ago. She is presently facilitating another writing group that I am a part of and not – often – enough she includes her own response to a poem she uses as a prompt for the rest of us. Once, I fell in love with Lise through her writing… nothing much has changed in all these years.

Love in the Round

Love in the Round

She’s ill –

stretched out.

The taught rope

alerts me.

My dog

is not sleeping.

Grief slides through thin air.

 Her sister

lies supine,

parallel, hugging

her sleek body –

As if one dog

could mediate

a sister’s pain.

These two,

wed to each other

through compassion

too deep for words.

I bend my face into theirs,

whispering love songs

we have shared from

the Beginning,

and will share

long after

We are gone…



When we meet 

our deep

brown eyes

 mirror a

mutual need

for light

to penetrate

 human darkness.

  Your eyes are

wary and fearful;

Mine hunger

for your touch.

I cry out softly

“Don’t be afraid…

I love you”.

We share

a haunted skin –

  hunted down

by Difference.

You are slaughtered

by men with guns.

I am knifed by wounding

 man words,

– boy threats,

 a ‘gift’ of a still warm

grouse – her neck twisted

and broken – dropped

at my door.

There are so many ways

 to kill an animal.

You have shiny black fur

and my skin is light

but our senses scream

as one

in torment –

our bodies feel

the earth moving

 under our feet.

We have no place

left to go –

no hope of peace.

What’s left?


to endure.

Working notes:

Some nights I walk down to the field, the one I call “field of dreams” to gaze up at the constellation of the Great Bear who circumnavigates the sky. In the Northern Hemisphere the Great Bear was probably the first image and manifestation of the Goddess. As a bear She denned in the fall, gave birth in dead winter, was reborn in the spring, feasted during the summer, and re –entered the cave, participating in an endless round of becoming. This year I feel the loss of Her Presence keenly. It has been a year of endurance; one in which hope has been absent. A year permeated by fear, drought, heat, stagnancy, unbearable waiting for house repairs to begin. It is almost November; un – dealt with house repairs loom as parched leaves drift to the ground and rains never come… I am losing perspective and I know it. 

Wild bears have been for the most part absent from my life. For the first time ever. The absence of day bears mirrors the apparent loss of the Great Mother in me. I am drowning in doubt and uncertainty.

Of course, hunting pressure has reduced the number of bears to almost zero and those that still haunt what’s left of these broken forests have little food or protection. Even though I offer sanctuary, treats, and friendship, bears have been too wary, visiting only under the cover of night. I almost never see them.

 The exception was Coal, a timid 300lb adult female that barely allowed me to get a few glimpses of her during the month of June…Although Coal knows me she is no longer interested in friendship. That she has survived long enough to reach adulthood and is of breeding age (she bred last year but lost her cubs to god knows what horror) guarantees that she has had too many threatening encounters with men to trust any human, including me – a woman who loves her. Because we are in the midst of the three month black bear slaughter I think about Coal every day hoping that somehow she has managed to escape the hunters raging gun, wild dogs that ‘hound’ her, the ugly steel traps illegal in every state but this one…I look at her picture wondering if there is some way to reach her, to protect her – to help her survive. But I suspect that I am as powerless to help her, as I am to help myself.

Chickadee Celebration

It takes so little

to please them –

a few seeds

a bare branched apple

a woodland hollow

 rushing mountain waters

 an overflowing brook.

We celebrate the gift of rain –

Swelling thirsty roots 

are singing

Water is Life.

We are the lush green forest

 breathing deep the scent of light.

 Chickadees gather in

the fruit tree

shaking tufted feathers

 undeterred by sheets

of cascading silver – 

prepared for

winter white,

as I hope to be –

apprenticed to them. 

Postscript: To be saturated by fall rain is to be given the greatest of gifts because as the poem says, Water is Life. Two days of rain, some light, some heavier downpours culminate in more than three inches of water that has  fallen over a long enough period of time to permeate roots and evergreen fingers, fill wells for now, and to bring back the emerald of green mosses.

 This summer of drought has brought me to my knees again and again as I have witnessed myself as a thirst driven root, insect ridden leaf, a cracked trunk, a shriveled seedling, a piece of desiccated moss, a flower that wilted too soon.

Today I pour my gratitude into the sweet earth giving thanks for this reprieve. With warmer temperatures predicted across the country for the winter I am hoping that summer’s drought pattern won’t become a permanent haunting…Whatever happens I have tasted the joy that Nature demonstrates through every winter bird that visits my feeders so enthusiastically – rather than causing chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers and nuthatches to seek cover, the rain seems to create an excuse for celebration! And like them I too am wandering around in the rain, soaking in scent, sinking into plush carpets of green moss and brown needles, watching the brook waters tumble over glacial stone…It is wondrous to witness, to hear how all of Nature sings and to feel that I too am a part of what is.

Sink Hole

I wake up.

Oh no –

Another tortuous climb

 towards life I cannot reach.


I’ve become a shadow.

A thick fog

engulfs me.


Dread consumes me

– a toxic mold.

Slow death defeats me.


into another

kind of fall  

I cry out – soundlessly.

Outside my window

A five foot hole


to swallow me whole.

If only S/he

would fill

this abandoned well

with sheets of rain and pristine light…


When we meet 

our deep

brown eyes

 mirror a

mutual need

for light

to penetrate

 human darkness.

 – Your eyes are

wary and fearful;

Mine hunger

for your touch.

I cry out softly

“Don’t be afraid…

I love you”.

We share

a haunted skin –

  hunted down

by Difference.

You are slaughtered

by men with guns.

I am knifed by wounding

 man words,

– boy threats,

 a ‘gift’ of a still warm

grouse – her neck twisted

and broken – dropped

at my door.

There are so many ways

 to kill an animal.

You have shiny black fur

and my skin is light

but our senses scream

as One in torment –

our bodies feel

the earth moving

 under our feet.

We have no place

left to go –

no hope of peace.

What’s left?

  Courage to endure.

Woods’ Walk

Woods Walk

A flash of crimson

lights up the forest.

Drumming splits

the air –

A glimpse

into the joy

of bird flight.

My feet crunch

parched leaves.

I am grateful

for the Frost

that has ended 

the thirst

of ground covers.

Death brings relief.

That night

I learn

that perhaps

a million birds

lie dead –

the canaries 

in the coal mine

of the Southwest 

  where Earth’s struggle

to keep her 

birds alive

is over

for multitudes.

I stare at 

the woodpecker

at my feeder 

with starving eyes,

imprinting him


in my heart.

Hairy is a frequent

year round character

that will

not be migrating

into the maelstrom

that has

killed so many

of his

avian friends –

but how long

before his time


There is something

about the death of birds

that brings home

the horrors

we face –

 Worse than

all the fires, floods, 

the drought, 

a mutating virus,

 mighty smoking winds…

Birds embody Hope

 with feathers –

as Emily once said.

Unlike the Frost

that took tender

ground loving plants

this death

speaks to a Great Calamity

of Permanence –

the particulars of which

are as yet unknown.


In Abiquiu, New Mexico where I have spent winters for the past four years they are finding dead birds… I can’t help feeling relief that I am not there to witness this horror – there is something about avian death that cements grief into the eternal.

Audubon – dead birds – Kevin Johnson

The Southwest Is Facing an ‘Unprecedented’ Migratory Bird Die-Off

Scientists and birders have found large numbers of migratory species disoriented and dead in recent weeks. Here’s what we know so far.

A dozen dead Barn and Violet-green Swallows huddled together on the dusty desert floor of southern New Mexico. Numerous Western Bluebirds packed into a crevice in southern Colorado as if they panicked. Sparrows, lined up almost wing-to-wing, lying limply along the banks of the Rio Grande.

These are just a few of the grisly discoveries recently made in what is likely a mass death event for migratory birds occurring across the Southwest. At the moment, there is no clear explanation. 

The die-off is “unprecedented,” says Martha Desmond, an avian ecologist at New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces, who is leading the research team documenting the event. She estimates that hundreds of thousands and possibly even up to a million birds have died across at leastfive U.S. states and in four Mexican states. “It’s enormous, the extent of this,” Desmond says. “We haven’t counted all the species yet, but there are lots of species involved.” Online reports show dead owls, warblers, hummingbirds, loons, flycatchers, woodpeckers, and more—representing the wide diversity of migrants heading south to their wintering grounds.

The exact reasons for the deaths aren’t yet known. A cold snap that brought snow, wind, and low temperatures across the region on September 8 and 9 could have forced birds to migrate early or brought down birds already weak from migration. Similarly, wildfires raging along the West Coast might have spurred premature departures while also interfering with birds’ migratory routes, vision, and breathing. Some combination of both factors may also be the cause, but experts emphasize that nothing has been proven so far. “There’s more questions than answers still,” says Jon Hayes, executive director of Audubon Southwest.

Scientists first began reporting avian deaths throughout New Mexico in August. Initially they didn’t think anything particularly unusual was going on: Birds expend a massive amount of energy flying hundreds or thousands of miles while also dodging deadly threats like bad weather, predators, and buildings. “The tragic but true fact of migrations is that birds die,” Hayes says. “Migration is very tough.”

But as reports of bird deaths became more widespread and continued into September, researchers started to become alarmed. More and more photos showing dead or disoriented birds on the ground were posted to a regional listserv, and observations of abnormal behavior, atypical flight patterns, and stray or vagrant birds across the Southwest further supported some sort of mass catastrophe.  

With the situation growing more dire, the NMSU scientists sprang into action. Desmond quickly convened wildlife experts from the university, the Bureau of Land Management, and White Sands Missile Range, where a large number of birds were found dead on August 20. Since then, the collaborative research team has already begun a sweeping study of as many migratory birds as they can collect, living or dead, to understandwhat might have happened. Along with examining bird carcasses—more than 300 so far—researchers are catching and banding migrants passing through. 

The first possible cause the researchers considered was recent unseasonal weather in the Southwest, which brought temperatures in the 30s and 40s, high winds, and snow to parts of the region. “A lot of birds probably died with the weather event that happened a week ago,” Desmond says. It’s also possible the cold spell forced birds to depart on their migration earlier than anticipated, she says. But the storms abated last week and birds continue to die. “It’s also very troubling that all of this started well before the [cold] weather, and it’s still continuing after the weather.”

The ongoing wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington could also be playing a role.

The ongoing wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington could also be playing a role. Wildfires are known to force early migration movements from bird species, and the smoke can poison the air while decreasing visibility. “The wildfire smoke is significant . . . You couldn’t see across the street,” Hayes says, regarding air quality conditions from his home in Placitas, New Mexico. “There’s no doubt in my mind that’s going to affect birds, too.”

Hayes sees a connection between these different extreme weather events. “This is about abrupt changes in our weather patterns as a result of climate change,” he says. “All these things are going to cause long-term declines, long-term losses [of birds], and they’re gonna be punctuated by big scary events like this. It’s part of this bigger problem.”

A 2019 study led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology found that North America is currently home to 3 billion fewer birds than it was 50 years ago due to multifold changes to habitat and food sources. Also last year, scientists with the National Audubon Society used 140 million bird sightings to project how birds will be affected by climate change in the coming century. They found that 389 bird species, including some killed in the current die-off, are threatened with extinction as temperatures and rainfall patterns shift. Many are also at risk from weather events like wildfires made more extreme by the warming climate.

Death Knell

I found ten in all…

Birds nests –

Too many I knew.

 Woven of grasses, 

tufts of hair

these spiral shells

fell out

of trees

at my feet.

I stared up

at branching canopies –

shuddered in Silence.

Shallow roots

can’t tap water

from a ground

  this parched. 

Thirsty trunks and frightened limbs 

 are held fast –

imprisoned by an unforgiving sky.

Caterpillars suck down

  nourishing sap.

Leaves curl and droop –

  Skeletons crackle 

  under my feet.

Beloved cedars

are losing their glorious fans.

Browning ominously.

My brook is going dry…

I no longer weep.

Death flies through dry air

on a fiery Warlock’s Broom

crafted from Human Stupidity.

Once I dreamed this

Nightmare when

waters flowed freely.

Peepers sung up spring nights –

 silvery veils and curtains fell –

 a chorus of tree frogs

 heralded wet autumn days…

I slept well in thickening fog.

Oh, for the sound of those poignant refrains

Oh, for the scent of rain sweetened songs.

Now I live the drought

month after month.

Witnessing the Dying.

Once I fled to a desert

to escape Climate Despair.

My body’s thirst for water

My heart’s thirst 

My head’s constant ache

  all visceral reminders

that our precious Life Force

is draining away –

Even the mycelial net

beneath the ground

needs Water to live.

The Autumn Equinox approaches.

Once, a moment to celebrate Balance 

between Light and Dark,

This year the Earth 

 is forced to Grind

 one Dying Seasoninto another…