give & take

crickets take their turn to listen

rasping wings held taught

dancing dragonflies go back and forth

with both their tails caught

the blowing breeze, can bend a tree

though she will groan in her reply

and just sometimes, the sun will let

the moon eclipse her in the sky

so I step back – into the shade

while you are shining bright

for only just one star is needed

to give the world all its light

but if your cup of joy runs dry

if there’s no room left to grow

give and take, I’ll empty out

so you may overflow

 

-sgw // august 22, 2017

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Robin Song

The remarkable thing about birds is their abundance of songs, calls and conversations.  What other creature has so much to say?  Birds spend a considerable amount of their lives singing and listening.  In the nest, they hear their parents’ song, and learn to replicate it with detailed accuracy.  It’s part of survival.  Strength and precision of song determines social status and mating success. The various chirps and calls are communications about nearby predators or food sources.

I’m sitting on the cottage deck watching a robin who is perched on the roof.  She is quietly listening to another robin’s guttural song from the driveway light post.  I can also hear a mourning dove’s deep wailing and the loud wick-a wick-a of a northern flicker. High up in the trees is the whistling fee-bee of a black-capped chickadee. But the robin on the roof only has ears for the singing robin.

Not only are birds skilled vocalists, but they are also acute listeners.  Female songbirds choose a mate based on accuracy of tune and length of note, discrepancies too detailed for the human ear to pick out. The robin on the roof has been perched for many minutes, just listening.  I wonder what she hears, if she likes it, and if she will respond.  But if she flies away to a tall pine tree and he doesn’t get the mate, we can still be sure of one thing: he’ll keep singing.  

-sgw // July 17, 2017

Poetry on Change 

While Underneath a Willow Tree 

how is it that she grew to be? 

flexible yet fearsome strong 

straddling this plane and pond 

her roots reach out in every way 

her branches blow and softly sway 

but in an arrow – onward and up 

grows her straight and sturdy trunk 

what would it be to grow in place 

with just one square of earth as base? 

to never reach or run or fly 

to only see one view of sky

how beautiful it is to change 

to find yourself unknown and strange 

to wake up breathless, somewhere new 

discovering a different you

to walk and dream and hope and be 

underneath a willow tree 

– sgw // july 2017 

Need Not Apply 

I hoped my smile would make this easy 

but no results here

just empty coffee mugs, unshaven legs, 

rain soaked resumes 

so soon and I am sapped  

soggy – sweaty – stuck 

I saw a worm sinking in a puddle 

who showed more ferocity than me 

the morning burned up and slipped away 

but I have nowhere to be late 

so do you think I could make it – 

squatting on an upturned milk crate?

-sgw // ann arbor // june 13, 2017 

Excerpt from Haiti

I’m on the roof of the rectory sitting in the shade of a large tree.  This plant should have been a weed. The rectory of St. Jude is high up in the mountains.  When I look down I see Port Au Prince and the ocean. The mountains scale up even higher behind me.  I heard the rich people live there with their own militia. Below me, on the mountain slope, there are big leafy plants, concrete shacks with tin roofs, skinny chickens, butterflies and goats picking through the trash. A child runs by kicking at a rusty can in his flip flops.  A woman walks over the jagged rocks barefoot, balancing a water jug on her head. There are no roads where they walk, just debris and dirt pushed aside to make a gravely trail.

On the patio of the rectory the Haitian security guards are playing dominoes on a plastic table, next to the mattresses where they will sleep.  They play all night, and I fall asleep listening to their Creole chatter and the abrupt “thud” as the dominoes go down.  I thought it would be quiet on the mountains, on a roof under the stars. But the goats bleat late into the night until they are drowned out by the roosters. And the skinny rectory dogs are easily provoked into a deafening cacophony of barking.  Even the tiny Haitian cats make a vigorous wild cry.

It’s not beautiful here. It’s poor and littered and ragged. I wonder how these people survive.  I wonder more what gives them hope.  Tomorrow I will see them in a dirty makeshift clinic, with bright smiles holding soft children.  They will be given Tylenol for aches and pains.  Tums for acid reflux.  Antibiotics for rotted teeth.  We will pass out the leftovers of an American pharmacy and we will run out of supplies and out of time.  But they will say merci, merci.  They will wait patiently in the hot sun for hours.  They will bring fresh coffee and fried plantains as our refreshments.  They will kiss us, bless us, pray for us – bondye beniw.

-sgw (expanded from a journal entry, written in Haiti on June 29, 2017)

Everything has Changed: Thoughts and Poetry

Last weekend I moved to a new town.  I’m suddenly unsettled.  I don’t know where to get coffee or go on a run.  My best friend and I are states apart. There is a raw emptiness where my old home used to be.  I can’t reminisce yet since that chapter of my life was only last week. I’m still too uncomfortable to feel the freshness of a new beginning. I go to bed a night wondering where I put my flight ticket back home. But I am home now.  A chapter of my life has closed, a new one is beginning, and I can’t read fast enough to keep up with the plot.  This is a poem about just that.

I kNew

Thoughts on Moving

to move: dislodge, replace, empty out, change, remove, separate, relocate, restart, ship out, pack up, grow, begin

i am balancing two things: sentiment for the past and excitement for the future.

it must be important to move a few times in life.  moving promotes growth and change. it increases the breadth of one’s experience. but to move too many times must make one feel displaced and uprooted.

moving is a time for purging and cleaning out. there is an opportunity to leave behind what is unnecessary or negative…things, habits, people.

moving is both the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. i am trying to read slowly, as beginnings and endings are significant.

there is trepidation. i am pulled away from what i know and dropped into a new environment. but there is room for curiosity, exploration and “first times”. there is room for growth.