Wild Turkey, Listening to Geese
Teach me, turkey,
to hear the geese
on their high, wild way,
They call like the flock you seek,
or the wind heard more clearly
as the dark descends,
each step a thought,
till your large wings lift
to meet the night.
(©2/5/00 Carol Snyder Halberstadt)
Grinding the Stone
(for Rose and Tena, at Aak'u)
Grinding the stone down
upon the stone
with the right amount
of water and pressure
changes it right
before your eyes.
Under your hands
the stone turns liquid,
its gritty sands smooth into color
that runs in the scouring--
puddles of russet and gold,
a blending of sienna,
to flow through your bent brush
and be burnt again,
hardened and glowing.
on the table
Dry red chilies
on the kitchen sill
catch afternoon light
in their skins.
Through the screen,
clouds from the mountain
Quickly a cold wind
blows cold sand,
clumps of dark rain
and fine lines of lightning.
Behind you the sun sets;
before you the rain falls
on roofs and rock cisterns.
Twin rainbows form and fade.
the fired pots,
with thin and potsherd-
keep water cool.
Audubon's Birds of America
He lets us see birds never seen--
the mouth of an osprey, looming, and the eagle
on columns of air.
In the desire to be real,
a pelican, its beak frontal,
is like a lily opening. I know that yearning--
hundreds of graphite strokes and the layers beneath,
the passion of paper. He would know that bird
in the mind, it would enter him forever.
Somewhere, between eye and hand, he will draw it out,
pinion each feather, wash
its life sheen in glazes--
but the chickadee's bright eyes, its arcs and curves
move beyond us all at the feeder
as I gather dropped feathers, these vane tokens,
with a finch's and a bluejay's,
and the black and mortal crow.
Woodcuts ©by Carol Snyder Halberstadt
Snowy Owl, Drumlin Farm
Rescued, the owl in winter is white
and dark, its feathers coils of umber clay.
It sits on its tree in the snow, a branch
growing, both dense and invisible.
Only the yellow eyes are still
with the paleness of slate struck by a glancing sun,
while the head like a strange flower
swivels in the light of lengthening days.
Horny feet grip the perch,
the lattice of its cage
throws shadows on the frozen ground
strewn with chicken heads and mice.
We stand around
with our mittened hands and steamy breath,
awed in the cold air, and imagine
the owl journeys with its heart,
soars in the marsh woods above meadows
and strikes, its great eyes orbital,
large as planets.
Seagull tracks, Plum Island, Massachusetts.
Be a pond strider like the bug
who walks on water
with a dragonfly
one hundred eighty million years ago.
Become like the sediment rock
turning from schist to claystone
from slate to shale
from quartzite to sand
from marble to lime--
or be jet, obsidian,
coal for the coldest north
and the sky space
where breath is frozen
and the body stills.
Be flint, streamweathered,
polished and faceted by wind--
be cinnabar red sulphide of mercury,
or petrified wood,
heavy as the face bones
of the mammoth.
I gather baskets
as if food--
berries and apples
to hold my soul.
The chaff has torn them.
With their broken splints
and raveled weaves
that the fingers of people
have worn away,
here and there,
dry and old,
they hold still,
the hands that made them.
Turquoise eagle, Navajo, from Tse'yi '(Canyon de Chelly).
Because we are naked
and have wandered far,
without feathers, or fur,
we have nothing for you, eagle,
not one offering you need.
On your sky pillars
feasting at tables of wind,
Because we have no knowledge
of your nest,
catch for us
the pieces of our lives.
The Diné [Navajo] Word for the East
Hearing a new language, the mind
changes itself--extends like a sound
to the east, lets out a breath--
breathes the sound, "ha'a'aah...,"
the long opening to the dawn
that never closes.
What effort it takes to find that place,
as the bird learns to sing
its first song in the nest
and then to summon,
One must let the voice go out
like a hatchling
to meet an answering call,
letting the air
find new places
in the throat,
as one stops
to see a color, a piece of stone
when the sun glances upon it,
amid sounds of the bold cicada
and tremulous bees--
there, on the path
not seen before.
Seal, by Alasi Audla , Inuit.
Reindeer and Seal, Plum Island
I see their horns growing like grass
in a great sea,
the land in which they swim.
Birds feast on their skin,
joined to the migration.
The seal on the beach,
lying amid the tracks of gulls
in a pocket of seaweed,
its fur still smooth,
returned only recently--
as if it came from a cold place,
from the shore of reindeer.
Its ribs billowed, its flippers
like hands were long,
and it lay in March sun
on the pale sand
like a beech leaf,
folded and still.
The beach at low tide
was a blotter, shells heaped and weeds
living and dead on the sand.
I wanted to see through that opaque fur,
through the dimmed, stopped eyes.
I have seen the messenger bird
flying like a psalm,
and it was large as a raven,
its cry was ink on wind.
It carved with its wings
and the air fell from it in chunks,
its wingbeats stroked
the thin tops of trees
and they made their leaves.
I watched the message of the bird
and it became my eyes--
it was small as a cedar waxwing,
and flew from the heart of the wood
with a sweet smell--
it sang, and I heard.
It flew into the lengthening days,
into the sunlight at ten,
and broke apart on the hard sky.
Write This Down
First there were eyes
and the edges of things--
horizons of sky and earth
and their cloud wrappings,
the suggestive stones.
There was the moon
moving from orb to arc
from sliver to full face
dented and worn,
there were sticks and bones,
the rib's curve and the femur,
the tongue sounding them into shapes
and the hand into forms.
Script is everywhere--
the cracks in rocks, their strata,
the spiral shell, the branching horn,
the circle of the sun
and knotted trees--
most intricate calligraphy.
We stare at the grass until we read it,
seeds and curling leaves,
their veins and stems already written.
We are translators and scribes,
slow, halting, partial--
our nomadic words
wander on caravans
as tribes that do not live apart--
they are mingling
on prodigious journeys.
(Published in Wilderness, winter 1993.)
Three Pots by Rose Chino Garcia of Aak'u
Like winter birds
they have come to rest at my table
where the fine lines of their wings are folded.
They turn, settling, hollow and round.
Their wings wind from earth coiled upward and smooth
as a white-throated sparrow huddling to be warm
in feathers of umber clay.
A trail of deer with red hearts grows smaller,
slips away through the white that is still as snow.
The fluteplayer plays a band of lightning.
Clouds and plants gather and grow,
and rain falls on the black stalk of a butterfly.
Its round eyes open
and ring the clay.
Hopi butterfly katsina by Davis C. Honie, 1995.
Butterflies & flowers, woodcut & watercolor, ©1974 Carol Snyder Halberstadt.
The butterfly astonished from its shell
wakes slowly to the message of its wings,
breaking the hard skin that has held it still,
a bell fixed through winter
to a dark twig.
The butterfly has waited for this change
from a green body soft and rippling,
with many feet.
It has eaten leaves into silk and taken
their shape for its own,
around it the leaf's green veins
It comes out wet like all born things,
folded and unflying,
fanning the air with long beats
to move an hour in the sun
from flower to flower.
On its wings now is gold leaf
and the black face of an owl.
its belly scatters dust,
its dry feet grip and catch,
from the end of the body waste slips,
and you feel the muscles
that will reach
across the water.
Memory of A Hawk
The hawk at rest in my mind
on a branch against the box walls of the canyon,
sits in the bush of my backyard--
a young hawk at rest,
seeing in the glare of an icy day
through a sheer glass sky
stripes of salt from old seas,
white veins and black,
scored in the rust-red rock.
This New England hawk,
river hunter, driven inland by cold,
soars from its granite bed
and wanders with me through wadis,
through umber and ochre clay,
the deep arroyos of sudden floods
in a dry place,
as we move with them,
Poems by Simon Guerrero
The following poem was sent to me in December 1999, by the author, and is published here with his permission.
I watched them leave today,
sewn into the ragged fringe of dawn
in the strange half-light of early morning.
Drawn from the line of land and hills
and grey mists of the sea, they slowly formed,
and in some long-hidden chamber of my heart
a dark bird stirred.
Last night, while I was sleeping,
En-ska, my totem, was calling me,
across the pounding seas of my blood,
through the wild air of my dreams.
And for a while, I danced
the desperate short dance of breath
inside a bird, and it was as real
as ice and rock and sea and rain
Here is loose-winged Branta Candensis
all feathers and leathered skin and weather
and the harsh voice of the wind
tearing the wet air into fragments,
churning the clouds in the icy silence
of a thousand feet above the ground.
And here is another, and here ten thousand more--
a vast chain forged of beak and bone and muscle,
hauling the world upon its axis, along a line
marked a hundred million years before,
slowly winding the sun over the mountains
and the moon across the sea.
For a brief moment, I knew the dark joy
of parting, the strange pain of separation,
and the sweet tragedy of loss.
For one brief moment I could fly,
and then I woke, and they were gone,
leaving behind only wind and rain
bursting like tears out of the wet darkness,
and since I have no wings to fly,
© 1999, Simon Guerrero, Staffordshire, UK.
This poem was received in late 2002...
To My Grandfather
my grandfather is in his garden
there are peppers
and aubergines big as boats
I like the taste of the word
and I roll it around my mouth
squatting in the cool shadow of the rows
and I tell it to the ants and butterflies
this is a dry country
my grandfather says
and his forehead wrinkles
like the water wrinkling the skin of the soil
and he squints at the sun
through a bay tree as old as the world
and slaps its trunk like an old friend
laurel, he says
it grows forever
what happened, abuelo?
the last time I saw you
thin as asparagus in your blue shirt
under the olive trees
outside the garden
and through adios, hasta la vista
nobody seemed to hear
but you called me by my father's name
and for the first time
I saw a tear on your dusty cheek
water for a dry country
this year is a dry year
my uncle says
no rain since February
and we visit the old woman with the cats
who has the keys
to grandfather's new garden
where there is rosemary and marble
and my grandfather
a strange flower
in shades of brown and blue
and I smile
but I am glad of my sunglasses
no tears for my grandfather
in this dry country
(©2002 Simon Guerrero)
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