Thursday, March 16, 2017

POETRY FRIDAY: "American Woodcock"

Another of my "birder" poems, this one a Shakespearean sonnet. Like a hummingbird, a male woodcock is a great romancer, but he leaves the chick-raising duties to the females. Lots of these fellows on Cape Cod this winter.

American Woodcock

The timberdoodle forages for worms
In a bosky brake. Brush snipe he’s also called,
And hokumpoke, in local color terms.
He holds his plump brown body like a bald
And long-billed burgermeister. Early spring,
He sounds his plaintive peent, then like a thistle
Tossed on an updraft, circles chirruping
For a mate: a suave display, a smooth wolf-whistle,
For one known too as bogsucker. He’ll strut
To lure a hen or earthworm, though on nights
When desperation forces him to glut
Himself on centipedes or snails, he fights
To stand on firm patrician soil. His legs
Dance pas de deux, but she can keep the eggs.

© 2017 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Thursday, February 16, 2017

POETRY FRIDAY: "Note of a Warbler"

Note of a Warbler

I am not brave,
Except as leaves are brave
Pitching witless
On the wind—

How, if I save
Myself from those who have
It in for me,

From a green height
And, caught out, shrink from sight
To fool a hawk,
Can I stand

My weight of fright
That wobbles me in flight
And faults my song,
My sound?

© 2017 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Thursday, October 13, 2016

POETRY FRIDAY: "Strange Pavement"

I love Robert Francis’s poems, and his gorgeous “The Sound I Listened For” (click the link to read it) is an unrhymed hexameter sonnet with six-beat lines, a very challenging measure to have sound natural when pentameter (lines with five strong stresses) is so ubiquitous in English. Here’s my attempt at the form, a memory from the years I commuted to Boston:

Strange Pavement

Young girls or geometric punks drew hopscotch squares
Across this stretch of pavement where I walk to work
Most mornings from the train. It must have been at dawn,
Or maybe overnight, before the early joggers
Scattered the chalk and scuffed away the double cross.
They left no names, forgot to scribble numbers in
Each block, so something might have interrupted them.
I keep on using plurals, but the they could be
A she, a he, a street artiste outside alone
Kneeling and making perfect squares in purple chalk
By flashlight as a code, or as a dare to us:
A bottle cap, a rock, is all you need to play.
I toss a dime and jump five spaces to retrieve it,
Then leave it there so someone else can take a turn.

© 2016 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

P.S. Here's a link to a radio recording of the late Robert Francis, America's "best neglected poet," as Robert Frost had it, reading poems. I admire poet Henry Lyman for producing these broadcasts for more than two decades in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

POETRY FRIDAY: "Beach Road Fox"

This short lyric is a mix of memory and imagination. It is also an homage to Robert Frost, whose work I've been reading closely. Thought it out for two weeks, wrote it in two hours. 

Beach Road Fox

An ocean fog brings foxes out by day,
And, driving home, I scare one on its way
To meet a rabbit for an early meal,
A splotch of rust the light’s too dim to name
True red, its tail a curl of orange peel
Or the guttering appendage of a flame.

For spotting one, it’s not as if I owe
More than a look, but nearer now I slow
The car to watch it disappear among
Beach rose bushes there along the road
(A fox’s only debt is to its young)
In loping imitation of a toad.

© 2016 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

POETRY FRIDAY: "Trespasser at Qwik-Mart"

I don't think I'd want a bear's life, but I do empathize with them. We'll be seeing more and more large predators in places we don't expect, and I hope that doesn't result in their numbers dwindling to a time when we never see them at all.

Trespasser at Qwik-Mart

Black bear climbed the fence behind the store
And lumbered toward the garbage bin.
Mother of two,
She’d had to let her hunger win
Against the cautious hollow at her core.

Night clerk, out for a smoke, had tossed a box
Of sausage pizza—a tiny sliver,
But it would do
Till morning when they reached the river,
So she tried to thunder softly as a fox.

Tranq dart struck her cleanly in the leg.
It took three more to bring her down.
The shooter knew
Bleak need had led her close to town,
For a black bear out of luck can hardly beg.

© 2016 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

You can hear me read the poem aloud by clicking here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Barding Around Massachusetts for National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month has brought me and my "Syllable Sounds: The Poetic Power of Vowels and Consonants" presentation to schools and libraries across my home state of Massachusetts. The month culminated in my being guest poet at the Quills & Quotes Poetry Awards for the Falmouth Public Schools (grades 1-12). Here are a few pictures!

Photo: Andrea Carter/Falmouth Enterprise

Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Children's Poetry Career Takes Off in 2016!

Bloomsbury/A&C Black, August 2016
Little, Brown; November 2016