Friday, March 13, 2020

Poetry Friday: Redstart

Sometimes it helps to take your eyes off the news and look at the birds. At least, that's what I'm finding. I suppose anything that's completely unaffected by tidings of virus mayhem would work as well, but there's just something about those birds. I got in the habit of sitting in my chair on my front porch during our weeks of lockdown here in Haiti (for political reasons, not health reasons) in our fall semester. Having to stay home made me decide that I needed to learn to identify the flora and fauna in my own yard, partly to keep from losing my mind and partly just to shift my focus.

I wrote this poem about my birdwatching the other morning, when I saw this guy (photo from


I see the American redstart
first thing in the morning
before I even sit down in my birdwatching chair
and before I can get my binoculars out of their case.

It flashes the brilliant orange on its wings,
vivid against their black background,
as it flies from the ground to a branch above.

I open my Notes app
and type “American” with my thumbs

and surely it is a good thing
that instead of
or even
my predictive text suggests:


Ruth, from

Matt has today's roundup.


Irene Latham said...

Redstart. I LOVE IT. :) Goes with my red year, too. :) ;) :) Thank you for watching the birds, Ruth, and reminding us to do the same. xo

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

Beautiful poem, and name - I'd never heard of a redstart, but I love that name!

author amok said...

Wow, Ruth. That fourth stanza anchors your poem in this time of upheaval. I love that the poem ends with your bird and a sense of hope.

jama said...

Love that you've taken to birdwatching. Redstarts are new to me -- love your poem!

Linda B said...

I know I won't see a redstart here, so love that you've given a lovely picture and poem for me this morning, Ruth. I am in love with watching crows, often having their own party in the green space outside my fence. Yes, better than headlining with those other words! Thank you!

Janice Scully said...

What a lovely photo and such a lovely poem. I've never seen a redstart, so thank you for showing me. in New York State, I'm hearing more birdsong in the morning which makes me happy.

mbhmaine said...

I love that your predictive text went to "redstart!" I've been thinking how much I appreciate the juncos-- the first birds I see each morning at this time of year. They will be leaving soon, but it will be fun to see who takes their place...catbirds maybe? I always love reading your bird poems.

Karen Eastlund said...

The birds bring us such comfort and joy. Thanks for this poem.

Linda Mitchell said...

How wonderful that your phone is in tune with you who is in tune with the birds. I love it, love it, love it. I've been enjoying the sound of the birds in the morning here. It's clearly an early spring by the joyful sounds.

Mary Lee said...

Add mine: LOVE it! Both the poem and your SMART phone! Oh, and the bird, too.

Snowing here. I was going to go out and sketch signs of spring, but that will have to wait for a warmer day!

Michelle Kogan said...

How nice to see the redstart first thing in the morning–I like how your poem starts and ends with it! I haven't quite learned all the ins and outs of using the eBird app, but it's a great repository and resource, thanks Ruth.

Carol said...

Thank you for this very important reminder! I think long walks with the dog are going to keep me sane over the next few weeks. I love that redstart comes up when you type in American!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Am I the only one who's wondering why it's called a redstart when the coloring is black and orange? I do love your poem though, and your phone, for recognizing what's important is not always the "big" stuff.