Wednesday, March 19, 2014

POEM: Names of Animals

Names of Animals

Rhodesian ridgeback,
Indonesian crested black macaque,
Scaly-tailed tree pangolin,
Canary Island peregrine,
Himalayan horned domestic yak.

Bearded Arctic seal,
Purple riverine spaghetti eel,
Galápagos flamingo,
Hairy long-nosed armadillo,
Yukon Territory blue-winged teal.

©2014 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Sunday, March 9, 2014

POEM: Spyder

One for nature’s femme fatale:


Patient spider,
plain-sight hider,
down her
slender thread.

She’s a lover
of the undercover,
and any bug
to cross her
ends up dead.

©2014 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

POEM: Dogsense


I’ve never pinsched a Doberman

    or whipped a whippet’s tail.
I’ve never dogged a Saint Bernard

    to nab the Holy Grail.
I’ve never knocked a boxer out

    or bored a borzoi’s brain.
But I’ve endured soliloquies

    from Hamlet, my Great Dane:
“To die, to sleep; to sleep: perchance

    to dream; ay, there’s the rub.”
And oh, the thousand natural shocks

    when he doesn’t get his grub.

©2014 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Monday, February 10, 2014

POEM: When I See a V

When I see a V
of Canada geese

I picture it as
a single piece

of a larger shape,
first letter in a word

spelled out southerly
bird by bird.

V is for vivid,



visitors from
vales of snow,

a vanishing

or is it very


©2014 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Saturday, January 25, 2014

POEM: City of Birds

City of Birds

No sooner had the kestrel over Boston Common fell,
So fiercely like a bomb it made a jogger twist away,
Than toddlers strapped in double-strollers, twins, began to yell,
"Bird! A birdy! Mummy! Daddy! Look! A bird!" for they
Had seen Make Way for Ducklings statues, paddle-boated swans,
Tossed fat pigeons cookie crumbs on Public Garden lawns,
And there the fallen falcon stood, an unexploded shell,
Atop a cabbie’s orange roof—a chipmunk for his prey
Was hooked and dead already—daring any to dispel
That battery of silence over all of us held sway.

©2014 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Note: I write a lot of "poet's poems" -- experiments with sound and syntax. Lately I've been determined to write poems that use the techniques I've been practicing yet have a quality of wholeness and openness that I hope will speak to an audience. "City of Birds" is this sort of poem. It was an enjoyable challenge writing in fourteeners (seven-beat lines), limiting my rhyme scheme, and shaping the entire thing as a single sentence.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

POEM: Morning Walk

Morning Walk

Snow fell, fell all night.
Now, no bird can tell
its perch. Each pine
is papered white
as birch. Out ahead
on our path, a cloud
of frozen vapor cast
up by a gust, itself
a snow-shape, hides
our whole woodpile
and falls a frigid dust
as snow fell, all night.

©2014 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

POEM: Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle

An animal of minimal means,
He owes no frog,
He holds no debt.
For travel, he’s a mobile home.
For music, he’s a metronome.
He’s blissful in a bog
And wet.

Counting time in a snarl of greens,
He cara-paces,
Ages slow.
In summer, he’s too somber to snap.
In winter, sleeps in a muddy gap.
His blood thinks,
His dream says,

© 2013 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

A note of scientific interest:
My daughter and I recently spent time with a biologist from the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and learned a good deal about our local snapping turtles. While snappers live about 50 years at the extreme—nowhere near as long as the Gal├ípagos tortoise—they hibernate by burying themselves in mud and leaves and by slowing their bodies so that their hearts beat once every few minutes. They don't need much oxygen in this state, absorbing it from pond water through specialized skin cells just inside the tail opening. In essence, they "breathe" through their tails. Freshwater turtles can stay like this for two or three months! The more details like this I learn about a subject, the more I want to include in a poem. My ear is the judge, as I always strive toward musicality. If a word doesn't sound right to me, if it doesn't harmonize with (or counterpoint) every other word, then it's best left out, or kept in prose.