It's in our Nature
By Will Vuyk
In this haunting time of winter, the wind howls for all to hear it
but where are the spirits?
of summer and fall, when from leaves and vivid water all manner of souls did crawl and call, and buzz on
The wind has left with those leaves, left with the heat that stirred the water, left with the wings of our fleeting spirits
yet here it still breathes
through the trees bare and barely moved, between rustling stalks
past the web of a lone dream catcher, a thin line it has to walk.
Winter-hardened, this spider is one of few
for neither midges nor mayflies dance under the midwinter moon
Even the mammals are elusive, as they tip-toe stories through the snow
While flocking birds, in tune with time, fly far off upon its flow
Under ice the frogs lay frozen, their friends the toads lie deep in silt,
Chasing across this absence, wind tears down all we’ve built
Yet on spins the spider,
Memories of summer spirits flashing snowflakes lashing
the wind unrelenting in its dashing
of seven straining legs, stuck year-round in season’s fate
despite it all, holding a cup-half full makes eight.
The spirit-hunting spider weaves its web ever wider
knowing that time too is turning
birds will be returning
mammals out from sleeping, frogs a leaping, crickets cheeping, mosquitos sneaking
small, itchy stings
There is serenity in the snow, and beauty in the bleak Between the bare trees and rustling stalks, the windswept earth reveals all that we seek
Haunted by absence, it is presence that we hold oh so dear, making the spirits of summer all the more special when they reappear
by Doris Dubielzig, February 2021
Pardon me. I’ve been
Preoccupied lately with demands both external and internal;
Indifferent and inattentive to seasonal progress;
Disinterested in reality and distracted by technology;
Deaf and blind to the biota
That flies above, crawls around and burrows beneath me.
That is to say,
“I’ve been busy.”
Forgive me. I have neglected to
Appreciate the sunrise and the rise of spring sporangia;
To catch the Northern lights and the lightning bugs;
To distinguish the warbler’s song from the wren’s.
I have skimmed without learning,
Skipped without thinking,
Squinted while blinking
Away tears of indulgence.
Excuse me. I’m ignorant of
The history of the bitter, broken promises,
The mystery of these mounds,
The legacy of the ancient travelers
Who set up camp 12,000 years
Before the present, who
Captured prey in the woods and in the bay,
Lit fire to the prairie and the marsh.
Permit me. I will commit to
Respect pioneers both plant and animal,
Study the clouds and the thrushes
Encourage the reeds and the rushes,
Recall the roles of water and wind,
Return to this central point, and
Here I’ll help to repair, restore and
Attend to this special, precious Preserve.
By Paul Noeldner
AUDIO COMING SOON
I paint you a picture of poplar poles
Milky tan trunks, dark green between
Fluttering tops and bark spotted eyes
Lining the woodland along the roadsides
Meadow patched quilt
Rough fencepost hem
Home for the wild critter and child
Beyond, hidden crows call
Bright streambed rocks
Berry sweet thickets
This poem is inspired by the magic of survival of life frozen over winter...
Fireflies in Winter
Fireflies in winter n the seasons twinkling lights
Glow sparkling embers of life's summer blaze
Nestled hearts beat through long icebound nights
Again in spring from bent brown grass and budding birch arise
This poem is in honor of the humble milkweed and all the living things that our native plants support...
A Milkweeds Tale
Springs Soft Milk Sucking Stem
Feeds Summers Monarch of the Glen
Falls Wrapped in Grizzled Cloak
Winters Wind Blows Snow White Smoke
Weaving Fresh New Babys Bowers
This poem is in honor of the hundreds of Tundra Swans that visit our beautiful bays each Spring and Fall...
Can Your Hear Tundras Honking
Can you hear the Tundras honking
As they end their wild ride
Call out to their wing mates
And touch down soft to glide
On mirrors of quiet waters
To weave a graceful dance
Until with full moon rising
Burst skyward from their trance
by Robin Chapman
Red fists punch through a crust of snow,
red knuckles veined with green, raised
against a sky threatening more cold and hail--
leaf after leaf will unfurl its rugged shoulders,
shrug off its crystals of ice, climb
into gray light on those fat red stems
we learned to chop and boil
in sweet syrup when nothing else
was green but its toxic leaves—those
crisp astringent pieces of rhubarb stalk
that bring us the first sharp taste of spring.
The Chimney Swifts of Madison
by Robin Chapman
August and September evenings they gather,
after fledglings have grown and gone, after
eating their daily weight in insects, before
they fly to South America for winter months—
begin to circle the old school's chimney stack.
High up, twittering, they call in each other
from across our city, last mosquitoes and early moths
snatched up as they turn and turn over the stack,
the parking lot, our small selves perched on rocks
or standing there, tripods set up to catch the sunset,
the circle of smoke that they become as light
departs and they spiral down, the stragglers
joining in to drop, one by one by many one,
out of sight, into the dark lined with bodies
clinging to rough cement and we find our hearts,
caught in pandemic fear, lifted, enfolded,
brought home to rest in the kindred dark.
Originally appeared on James Crews’ Facebook Page and reprinted in Quill and Parchment, March 2021, Vol. 237
Originally appeared in Remnants of Warmth (Kelsay Books, 2019) and to be reprinted in Something Novel Came in Spring (Water’s Edge Press, 2021).
By Clara Landucci
Place your ear upon the earth
do you hear it?
A thousand clamoring whispers sound
The trees speak
It is a tongue we have not yet earned the right to know
But it is music all the same
Beneath the shell of the earth there lies
A spider’s web of fungi
A gossamer map of connections
diving- swooping in around over and
through the rich soil from tree- to tree to tree
A web of fine spun song
A silently clamoring chorus of voices
Listen to us.
Do you hear us?
We are not yet lost
“Finding My Path”
—Marjorie E. Rhine
My daughter Mathilda strides ahead of me, her dark-brown hair falling in messy waves over the back of her owl-adorned t-shirt, an appealing rock already snuggling in a pocket of her boy’s khaki shorts. This beautiful June day is her eleventh birthday, and as part of our celebration we are walking together out onto Picnic Point, a peninsula about a mile long that curls out from the south shore of Lake Mendota like a little elephant’s trunk reaching toward the northeast. Tiny toads leap about our feet at the edge of the path, and Mathilda bends low, cupping her hands to catch one. We crouch together, cooing over this miniature marvel.
These chocolate-dappled American toads are only as big as my thumbnail now, newly metamorphosed from their tadpole selves. In late Spring, I watched two toad parents hug half-submerged as if wrestling, a coupling called amplexus, from the Latin word that means to embrace. The smaller male clasps tightly to the female’s back, ready to fertilize her two long strands of eggs as they spill out into the water in wispy, translucent strings dotted with dark-brown beads, drifting down to curl around some reedy plants in the water.
Standing to stretch, I focus for a moment on the high-pitched trills of red-bellied woodpeckers as they poke around for insects in the bark of the trees above us, lifting my face and closing my eyes in pleasure as the June sun warms my skin. When I look again at Mathilda, the light plays over her long hair, making the coppery highlights glow, and I think of her as a beneficent goddess bent low over the toads, blessing their pilgrimage. I feel a warmth expand across my chest that is both an opening and an ache. Having lived in Madison since she was two, she is a child of oaks and acorns, prairies and frozen lakes, someone who ice skates and heads to a nearby snowy playground in the winter to hit a tether ball or shoot baskets, her face bright from the cold when she returns.
But even after going to graduate school in Madison and moving back here years ago when Mathilda was a toddler, I am still a child of fir trees and rhododendrons, sea shores and mountains, imprinted with the landscape of my childhood in Tacoma, Washington. I long to feel more grounded in Madison. And Lake Mendota seduces and soothes me, offering me a way to find my path along its shores. The lake winks through the trees to reveal vistas of wooded bluffs full of woodpeckers, warblers. Bright sprays of water splash up behind a group of black, chubby American coots that scurry across the surface of the lake before they can take flight. The trails that linger along the lip of the lake invite me on a pilgrimage of walking, reading, writing. Can I immerse myself in all of these lovely layers of landscape, meandering along these sun-sparkled waterways to find a home here, too?
Mathilda looks up: “Mama, let’s go find some sea-glass!”
I’ve got the best guide in the world.
by Hannah Pinkerton
Pushing north Sun gets up earlier
throwing shadows across bluish snow
running up red pine to cobalt sky
Cardinal shines Vatican red
against purity of snow
Woodpecker all fluffed out
bereft of trim dandy look
Chickadees on a zip line
tree, feeder back to tree
Sheltered in place behind bay window
I taste cold color, drink clean clear sky
take in my daily minimum requirement
by Sandy Stark
Birds counted in marsh,
fields, trees and we left to seed
burnt prairie in snow.
Birds counted in marsh,
fields, trees and we left to seed
burnt prairie in snow.
To be published in Hummingbird: Magazine of the Short Poem, coming in Nov. (XXX1, 2) issue
The Lake Reaches
by Leta Landucci
The lake reaches
Upward it stretches
Molecules of water slowing their euphoric jittering
to share electrons
to assemble -
architectural marvels of crystalline palisades
Helical staircases unspooling, rungs sending refracted light,
ever climbing, unfolding
The trees bend their stiffened backs
Stooping toward the lake, as if to catch the whispers of a tale
Of all the swatches of color and pinpricks of starlight and contemplative faces to which the lake has served as looking glass
The tree’s frozen fibers pluck water from the air
Limbs encased in bubble-embedded chrysalides of ice
Molecule followed by molecule
the lake shutters
filamentous threads, growing pains
Fractals etched across its skin, its frozen membrane
It’s body a bridge
A speleothem dripstone
A confluence of stalactites and stalagmites
The cavernous maw of an ice creature petrified mid howl
punctuated by canine daggers
Hourglass pillars to buttress a frozen fortress
Its body a bridge