{pf: p7 marches in with masks}

On the four weeks and five days before the Equinox, my plum tree gave to me… a surprising number of blooms, which I tried vainly to tell it to hang onto until temps got above the thirties at night and the wind slowed from 30 mph gusts.

It did not listen.

This honestly should be no surprise; the starlings did not listen when I explained to them last year that a nest over the front door was not really the most advantageous spot, the little cat from the house behind us does not listen when I beg him or her not to sleep on top of the plant in the walkway — the ladybug horde that has moved in does not listen when I gently try to entice them with the advantages of the great outdoors. I don’t know why I expected anything different from my tree. Spring comes whether it is pouring or dry, whether I think it is way early or no, whether it is convenient to the sinuses or not (it is NOT. Ever). And so, it is coming, a dive-bombing bird of prey, screaming across the sky, with talons extended, and with no brakes. Um, welcome Spring.

For reasons made clear in the previous paragraph (just call me Dolly Dramatica), this month’s poetry challenge was a good match for my particular brain. Mask poems are poems in which the reader slips into the soul of an inanimate object or an animal, and looks out through its eyes, answering questions of what it sees, what it thinks, or how it reacts to what’s going on around it – or with the poet. What does a snowflake want to say about itself, before it’s gone? A pair of gloves, a cell phone, a turtle? The poet takes the opportunity to embody another – an excellent excuse to pretend – and to consider a question in a voice that isn’t quite one’s own.

Because Laura initiated our challenge this month, I set myself the additional challenge of writing a poem that might suit a child. Laura is very good at consistently using our challenges to write poems for children and teachers, who are her readers, so however successfully/unsuccessfully, I’ve tried to take an animal-and-upbeat page from her book today. I’d say it was unsuccessfully, but hey – I was mindful not to be depressive, at least! I call that PROGRESS.

You might wonder if you’ve ever met a black phoebe. They’re a variant of flycatcher, and they’re they hardest darned things to photograph, ever. They’re tiny, smaller than a sparrow – more finch-sized, really, and ALWAYS moving, flicking their tail, abruptly leaping up or diving, and zipping all over, deeply unconcerned with what you’d like them to do – much like all of my other backyard neighbors.

Peachtree 244

a plum tree sings of phoebe

Black phoebe sits and sings near me
Concerned with only my gnat pests
He could care less that I’m a tree
With Damson blossom buds as guests.
Just bugs for him. His whistled call
Says mostly that it’s “time to eat!”
My branches reach for Sunlight’s fall.
(My leaves are waiting ’til there’s heat.)

My human comes to fuss at me
And gently touch a blossom guest.
She worries there’s no guarantee
That frost won’t make my branches stressed.
But phoebe flits, and doesn’t know
If flies tomorrow he will find –
“But look,” he tweets, “the lily grows!”
(Birds worry less than people-kind.)

Black phoebe, dining on the fly
Nabs lacewing here, a moth elsewhere –
Aerial antics amplify
The birdkind version of a prayer
To Spring. To flight, to frigid wind
As blossoms shimmy in the breeze –
Sing, even if the world should end
Use beauty’s balm your mind to ease.

There are more masks hiding and revealing all sorts of things amongst the poetry sibs this month. Laura’s enlightening us, while Sara’s sharing treasures. Liz is in the kitchen, while Rebecca is using windows as eyes. Tricia was gluing the last bits of her mask together as she also leapt a tall building in a single bound, while Kelly and Andi have hung up their masks for today, so we’ll see them next time.

Poetry Friday is graciously hosted today @TeacherDance. Thank you, Linda B!

Ah, friends, I’ve heard it in the chillest land (which is where it feels like most of us live just now) -/ And on the strangest Sea (also what we live in now on the West Coast, despite this bright blue picture on a briefly dry afternoon)-/ Yet – never – in Extremity,/ It asked a crumb – of me.

Miss Emily reminds us that no matter where we are, we must listen for it… Singing, I mean. Get out and listen to things with feathers this weekend. And if you can’t hear the hope, sing it aloud for someone else. Tough times for many of us just now, but holding each other up, we’re going to make it. Keep singing.

Peachtree 243

8 Replies to “{pf: p7 marches in with masks}”

  1. Yes, we’ll make it. We’ll keep singing and holding each other up. We must.

    Favorite line in your poem: “The birdkind version of a prayer
    To Spring.”

  2. Your phoebe/plum tree poem charms the socks off me. And I love all the dialogs between you and your resident creatures. We have a flycatcher (I think) that builds a nest every year above our front porch. What a mess of droppings. She won’t listen either, just like your friends. But. Our daffodils are starting to come up!! Finally. Only thing the deer won’t eat. Especially love your use of birdkind and people-kind in the poem. 🙂 You have my sympathy with the starlings. Messiest birds ever (though they’re beautiful with their murmurations).

  3. The birds, though I don’t think phoebes, are louder most recently, and it’s now warmer. This weekend, cold and snow are returning & the outside will quiet once more. Your poem makes me want to read again those books that go more deeply into a tree’s life. I read recently that trees appear to move their roots in order to help a neighbor! Now you’ve given a voice to your Plum tree & its relationship. Lovely thoughts, Tanita: “Black phoebe, dining on the fly/Nabs lacewing here, a moth elsewhere –/Aerial antics amplify/The birdkind version of a prayer”. I will remember. Thank you!

  4. Aw, Tanita–thank you for your kind words. I’m impressed that you aimed for a kid-accessible poem this month. I would find it highly challenging to write a poem in your style, full of sophisticated allusions and deep (and sometimes scathing) humor and pain.

    I really like your revision. I liked your first ending, but this one feels richer. I hope it feels less of a cop-out to you (though it didn’t feel that way to me, before)! By adding “even if the world should end” to your new ending, you’re acknowledging all the crap, the sadness, the injustice, the death…and yet, the black phoebe still encourages us to sing. Because it makes all of the above easier to tolerate. Simply beautiful. I also chuckled at “My human comes to fuss at me…”

    Happy birthday, lovely poet!

  5. Ha! I’m trying to convince the family of birds that built a nest riiiight over my space in the parking garage that they might be happier out in a tree. And my paint would be much happier without their goopy contributions every morning.

    Lovely words, as always. I admire my seedlings every day as they push up against the icy window panes. With the snowy background, their greens really pop.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, girl of spring!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :mrgreen:

  6. (Birds worry less than people-kind.)

    Isn’t that the crux of it there?

    …so perhaps it’s Spring’s mission to FORCE us not to worry about the whens/whys/whats. I LOVE what you’ve done here with the tree and the black phoebe and the blossoms….so much revealed instead of concealed. Lovely.

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