Poems by Judy Bebelaar

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by Judy Bebelaar

From Canary Summer 2010

Judy lives in the Derby Creek Watershed in Berkeley, California, between Derby Creek, which was long ago paved over, but still flows beneath the streets, and Claremont Creek, which runs down from the hills.

We haven’t figured out yet,
what kind of bird she is
small, a black spot on her head,
red-brown breast, gray wings.

We use the back door now
because every time we left by the front
she flew, a swift, frenetic flurry
heading to the tall birch across the street.

Today, in her nest in the hanging blue pot of ivy
on our front porch: four eggs, blue as a lost heaven.

Cats have not discovered her home,
artfully placed
but has she left the nest too often,
the eggs now cold and lifeless?

Why is this so important to me?

If her eggs become fledglings,
will it save the dolphins in Taiji Wakayama
being captured to sell to zoos
or slaughtered for fertilizer and pet food?

Save the polar bears, the rhinos, the penguins and the lynx,
the vultures and the monarch butterflies?
The sea turtles, the harp seals, the whales?

Will it spare the Saola, beautiful horned goat
with a painted face?
The Hmong call her the polite animal,
for the way she walks so gently
through the mountain forests,
unafraid of humans.

Today I heard on the radio
the story of a whale entrapped by fishing nets.
She remained very still, watching, while divers cut her free—
nudged each one
before she swam away.
Then I heard a woman tell about the time
she’d been kissed by a wild dolphin.

I remembered when my daughter
sat on the edge of the dolphin tank
and sent quiet thoughts into the water.
A dolphin came to her, as if he knew.

And on a breezy August day like this
it’s easy to believe, if just for a blue sky minute,
if I protect this single bird and her chicks,
the dolphins and whales,
the butterflies, the Saola—
all of them will survive.


by Judy Bebelaar

From Canary Fall 2016

In the snapshot he balances it
on his bald head,
the smile under that glowing fruit

After the chemo all his thick brown hair
fell out in clumps in the shower
over a few days.

I can see him, before he got sick,
his hair tamed into a pony tail by a rubber band.
I laughed when he told me
that one of his students, a girl
in his English class at Richmond High,
asked if she could touch his hair:
Why Mr. B, your hair is nappy like mine!

I bought, as a present for him,
a persimmon tree.
He loved persimmons,
loved to see the orange fruit
on bare winter limbs.
The last year that tree,
transplanted three times,
bore the most fruit it ever has.
Soon it will be older
than he was
when he died.

Soon the leaves will burnish
then fall ,
as they always do,
in a bright heap
over the few days
before the inevitable chill settles in.

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