March 27, 2020

Mini-Prompt: Birds and Wildlife Watching

We're into the final days of our "official" March prompt at Poets Online which is about "lost and found." I saw in the past week several submissions that address the current COVID-19 pandemic. One was a lost and found poem but the others were just about the pandemic in general. I understand the need for poets to write about what's happening, even if that's not what the prompt asked them to write.

I'm writing more than usual. I'm also continuing my daily walks which are often in my local woods but sometimes just suburban sidewalks where people give each other a wide (at least 6 feet) buffer now. But people are waving, nodding and saying hello more than usual.

Today's poem on The Writer's Almanac is "Look It Over" by Wendell Berry which fits in very nicely with my own walks.

I leave behind even
my walking stick. My knife
is in my pocket, but that
I have forgot. I bring
no car, no cell phone,
no computer, no camera,
no CD player, no fax, no
TV, not even a book. I go
into the woods...

I like watching the chickadees at my feeder. They seem so hyperactive, flitting to and from the feeder while others like the little finches and bully jays hang around and keep eating. The video above finally gave me an explanation of why they feed in that manner.

Poets and Writers sent out its weekly newsletter which always contains writing prompt or poets and prose writers. Their current poetry prompt suggestion is "animal watching," particularly birds, which exist in even the most urban environments. They might be visible from your nearby window or at a bird feeder.

There's a poem by Billy Collins ("Christmas Sparrow") about a bird that gets trapped in his house that he included in a beautifully illustrated anthology of bird poems that he edited, Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds.

...Then a noise in the throat of the cat
who was hunkered on the rug
told me how the bird had gotten inside,
carried in the cold night
through the flap of a basement door...

He is able to capture the sparrow in a shirt and gently carry it outside and free it, but

...For the rest of the day,
I could feel its wild thrumming
against my palms...

If you have written your "lost and found" poem (or that prompt isn't inspiring you) and want to try the Poets and Writers prompt on animal watching, please do so - and if you'd like to share the result - please post it as a comment to this post. (*NOTE* All comments to the blog need admin approval. Don't panic and post again.)

I will keep posting occasional prompts in the upcoming month besides our official April prompt. April is National Poetry Month and though events will be few, I think we need things like poetry more than ever right now.

Be well, write, and share your words.


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  1. Birds at the feeder
    neighborhood goldfinch cafe
    Now I am hungry

    but my haiku has spread like the seeds
    underneath the column of food
    where squirrels casually dine
    without having to outsmart
    the feeder's defenses.
    So much activity that
    seventeen syllables can't contain.

  2. Meditation on Birdsongs

    The welcoming sunlight forced my eyes closed –
    into meditation mode: white-throated sparrow’s simple notes
    of three/four; harsh jay’s single screech bu
    no Barred Owl’s “Who cooks for you.”
    Sets of three-noted refrains – Black-capped Chickadees feeding.



    As far back as I can remember,
    my mother called me her little chickadee.
    Not long after she passed, I noticed
    a little chickadee on my front walkway.
    As I approached, I said "is that you mom?"
    As I got closer, , she hopped in my direction.
    I reached out, but she distanced hers,
    and I stepped back.

    Today, three red cardinals visited. I
    don't know who they were.

    Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


    It seems the birds are late this year
    As we take our “solitary exercise”
    Down the block and through the park
    One mallard in the creek
    A robin in the hedge
    One lone Cardinal singing
    High in the sugar maple

    And so, when we are done
    With our furtive ambulation
    (As if this virus was a giant raptor)
    I open up the laptop
    Find a library of bird song
    Click on Bald Eagle, Black Backed Gull
    And am instantly transported

    The smell of seaweed fills my nostrils
    The sound of surf assaults my ears
    It’s just past dawn on Grand Manan
    A steady line of boats
    Emerging from the pier across the bay
    Two eagles perch out on the point
    Survey the cove for signs of breakfast

    Frank Kelly

  5. Apology of the problem child!

    Childhood to adulthood is a beautiful journey. As a child, you see the glee of excitement for the simplest of things. Whether it is to see a bird, or trees or even, just a stone lying on the ground. We are in awe of everything that nature provides. Everything seems so magical!

    As we step into adulthood, these magical things which brought us great happiness, seems trivial. We chase an artificial world. At some point, we tend to be lost ourselves.We long to go back in time.

    This is the story of one such child. This is also the story of every child lost in all of us.

    All is not lost...Time to step back and reflect!
    "Coming in the world, I was just a child...
    You showed me, what love was all like...

    As a young child, I was always shy,
    You showed me how nature thrives;
    In the mornings, I heard the birds cry,
    With trees everywhere, the air smelled so nice;
    I played around always and you let me go wild,
    Me and the nature, it seemed so right.

    As I grew older, I got so preoccupied,
    Life seemed to be just money and might;
    After a point I realize,
    Is it worth all the sacrifice?

    Then came a moment that I decide,
    I feel I had enough of this, roller coaster ride;

    I want my nature, I want my wild
    I want to hear the birds sing and cry
    I miss the clean air, but I must survive,
    O dear nature, please help your child!

    Now I wail, now I cry,
    I promise to set everything right,
    Just be with me, for I am just a child
    Can you forgive me for this last oversight?"


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