Poems by Cathy Barber

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A Day with My Sister at Point Reyes

by Cathy Barber

From Canary Winter 2015-16

Cathy lives in the Poplar Creek watershed on California's San Francisco peninsula although, as far as she knows, there is no remaining Poplar Creek.

The fox crosses the road
like a familiar pedestrian
returning home from town.
And the bobcat,
hardly recognizable,
like a tan rock near the top of the hill
is spooked, see-saws away
the way cats do.

The whole day is full of white waders
too numerous to see, let alone count
in the endless bogs.
And we take the long drive
to the Northern end,
where tule elk,
tall and antlered,
are wary of our interest.

We debate getting out before dark
or lingering to see the sunset
over the ocean.

And we stop, one last time,
the sun very low,
to walk the heath to a small pond.
Two coots toward one end,
white beaks fronting
black bodies, skim.
Suddenly, not six feet away,
we spot a bittern,
its head barely moving
until he stabs his prey,
a black fist of something
unrecognizable in the dusk.
Meal in beak, he stilts
into the water grasses
out of sight.

The sun makes a sudden drop,
cold is around us and in us.
The car and the lot are far.
And what looks in the twilight
like a coyote
appears at the top of the hill.
We run,
racing the dark, the cold,
the wilderness.


by Cathy Barber

From Canary Fall 2015


They were the imagination
of our planet. Let us have a bird
that lives here and spirals so,
and migrates in a sky-blanketing
single movement from Quebec to Texas.
Was it early? Was it late?
Cabinets are filling still with taxidermy,
labeled and marked
for date of expiry.

Are wrens and robins
better than the Dodo?
Three wishes, which would you choose?

Wings quiver with vibrancy and compression.
Five thousand blackbirds and starlings
plummet in Arkansas.


Giant Moa

The giant of New Zealand.
Twelve-feet tall, five hundred pounds,
with featherless leg/trunks.
Maori drove these reddish freaks
into pits to kill, rob their nests.
Just three centuries before Europeans landed,
just that tiny window before 1500
when the boats began to land.
What a scare those creatures
would have given the sailors,
what a useful beast
that Moa might have been.


Heath Hen

The last one was seen, recorded
1932, West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard,
Massachusetts. She scuttled under a low bush
and became the last.
She had a witness but not a name.

Perhaps we could put a pin in a map,
have a toast with warm and comforting
tea, maybe with a bit of spice,
and name her, honor her, for feeding
the indentured laborers, the settlers,
no doubt the Wampanoag, the French
and the English, whoever arrived.


Passenger Pigeon

The numbers would amaze.
Billions. Why passenger? Who did they carry
or what were they carried on? The currents,
their plans. Gregarious, they are said,
as though they had a bird personality for
parties and friendship.

Pike County, Ohio, March 24, 1900,
the last one was captured, and zoo-ed and named Martha,
after the wife of the father of our country.
A mourning dove, but different.

Those blasts of migration must have been
spectacular. Like Blue Angels that covered miles
of above, speeding overhead, darkness and light
simultaneously. They overdid it, those pigeons,
and so did we. How could we have known
the acres and acres of nests and broken branches
and bird talk heard for miles would not suffice?
How could such surplus erase?


Thick Billed Ground Dove
Pile Builder Megapode
Antillean Cave-rail
South Island Snipe

Mauritius Night Heron
Reunion Night Heron
Rodriguez Night Heron
Ascension Night Heron

Paradise Parrot
Reunion Owl
Alaotra Grebe, 2010

"Migration" was published in Cartagena

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