Wednesday, April 22, 2015

DESERT PASTORAL - April poem #22

It's Earth Day! Of course, every day should be, or we should live as if it were. None of us are perfect, however. But Earth Day can be a reminder to slow down and look up from various screens to the real world around us. Certainly a poem about nature seems in order for today. Once I got started on this one it was hard to know when to stop, so I did so rather arbitrarily. I apologize to the hawks, house finches, goldfinches, thrashers, woodpeckers, and cardinals, and also to the coyotes, javelinas, bobcats, various snakes and spiders, including tarantulas, and other creatures who share our yard and neighborhood. Eventually I'll get around to writing about you. I promise. I love you all.


Welcome, spring, for your brief flowering
before we fall headfirst into summer’s cauldron,
never quite knowing how it happened.
Though it happens every year,
every year we are surprised by it,
every year we look at spring with its
tissue paper flowers, and wish it could last longer.
Welcome to the days of sitting outside
on cool sunny mornings,
watching lizards on the path
while birds talk in the background:
doves, quail, quarrelsome sparrows, finches,
the zip and zoom of hummingbirds.
Why do hummingbird feeders have so many portals,
I wonder, since they’re very bad at sharing.
Another approaches and the battle is on.
It’s thrust, feint, and parry with beaks for swords,
flash, dive, attack, and retreat in mid-air,
all begun and over in seconds.

Welcome, orioles. Childishly, I hope you will like me,
or rather like this space, my yard,
that you will want to stay here with your lady
and raise your own children here.
I offer you trees and food and water and my heart.

Welcome, black-headed grosbeak.
We’ve never met before, but you are welcome,
though I have a feeling you’re just passing through.

Welcome lizards, alone and in pairs,
skittering out from under rocks and bushes,
from behind ceramic creatures on the wall,
pale as flesh that never sees the sun and small,
some of you, with new skin that will thicken in the air
of summer, that hot thick air that pushes
the air from my lungs, pushes me down, like a heavy hand
on my head, making it hard to stand against the heat.
Chase each other all around and up and down
the mesquite trunk and act as if you don’t know
what to do when you finally catch up.
Or maybe you’re too shy to show me more than foreplay.
I’ve watched you lay your eggs in my herb garden,
first the digging in the soft soil,
frenzied and quick with tiny claws,
then backing up over the depression, the up and down,
ejecting the tiny rice-like egg and covering it.
Welcome to what emerges from that egg.

Welcome doves, building foolish flimsy
nests for your white eggs that may not hatch.
Sometimes you choose your nesting sites so badly,
like the top rung of a ladder left leaning against
the garage’s western wall, with no shade to
protect it, or your babies, from the sun.
That did not end well. I thought this year’s nest
in the jasmine might succeed,
but then the mother disappeared
and soon there were empty eggshells
on the walk below.

And quail, welcome too, most sincerely,
though you are more foolish than the doves,
laying your eggs in impossible places,
from which your precocious
babies cannot exit safely, or else
abandoning those creamy pointed eggs
dotted with chocolate before they hatch -
such attrition, whether they hatch or not.
It does not do to count the babies, day by day,
and watch their numbers shrink.
It squeezes the heart, urges tears.
We cannot spare the water.

White-winged doves, you are not welcome,
crowding the fence above the feeder designed to exclude you,
great raucous bullies, pushing and shoving everyone else
to gobble up what falls on the ground.
Birds of peace, my ass.

               - Victoria Stefani


  1. What a lot of work - well done you.
    See my words at:

  2. Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my poetry. It's great to hear what people t xhink. The bulldozer was a metaphor for my life, of course...

  3. Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my poetry. It's great to hear what people t xhink. The bulldozer was a metaphor for my life, of course...