Friday, October 08, 2021

Poetry Friday: Birdtober Day Eight: Common Yellowthroat


Today's poem is about the Common Yellowthroat, but it's also about my family. I mused here, by way of Pablo Neruda, about that tendency to write about ourselves, no matter what we're ostensibly writing about. Today's photos are mine, too. The first one is the wetland in Kansas (mentioned in the poem) and the other three are from my research. Other sources I used: Common Yellowthroat and Common Yellowthroat.

I'll post links at the end to the other Birdtober entries so far.

Common Yellowthroat

In April,
we saw a Common Yellowthroat in Haiti
on a scrubby mountainside.
Turns out,
that’s where some of them
spend the winter.
Their Kreyol name:
Ti Tchit Figi Nwa,
little bird with a black face.

We saw so many birds that day,
and heard others.
(We were birding with an expert friend
who pointed out beautiful sights
we would never have seen on our own.)
Maybe the best:
a Narrow-billed Tody,
neon green with a bright red chin,
a lifer.
The Common Yellowthroat
was a lifer too.
I don’t remember him particularly,
but he’s on my list.

In July,
we saw three Common Yellowthroats in Kansas
in a protected wetland.
Turns out,
that’s where some of them
Their midwestern name:
yellow bandit.

We saw so many birds that day,
and heard others.
(We were birding with an expert friend
with a spotting scope
and there was a bird checklist available
with the sign at the entrance,
complete with map and photos
and an admonition not to hunt or fish.)
Maybe the best:
a Great Blue Heron,
slate blue with a long and graceful neck,
a lifer.
The Common Yellowthroats
were lovely too,
and we listened to their
witchety-witchety-witchety call
and chased them until we found them.

Later in July,
we saw two Common Yellowthroats in South Dakota
in a mountain forest.
Turns out,
that’s where some of them
spend the summer.
Their scientific name:
Geothlypis trichas,
a small thrush close to the ground.

We saw so many birds that day.
and heard others.
(We were birding with our children,
who walked on ahead,
laughing and talking
and enjoying each other’s company,
going really too fast for birding,
but together, and with us,
so we were happy.)
Maybe the best:
Cedar Waxwings,
delicate and dapper,
a lifer.
The Common Yellowthroats
showed up on the sound ID,
hanging out in the trees,
catching bugs.

I’d like to say
we followed the
Common Yellowthroats,
flying in an airplane
instead of winging north
(migrating nocturnally),
like they did,
but of course
our journeys weren’t related.
We just crossed paths a few times,
birds and birders,
as we lived the quiet drama
of our own lives,
and they got on with theirs.
We just listened to them
and spied on them through binoculars.
Turns out,
that’s one way some of us
mark our days:
by the birds.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Here's are the poems I've posted so far for Birdtober:


Last Poetry Friday, October 1st: Antillean Palm-Swift (rhyming poem)

Saturday, October 2nd: White-necked Crow (short free verse)

Sunday, October 3rd: Bee-eater (list poem)

Monday, October 4th: Brown Creeper (tanka)

Tuesday, October 5th: Hornbill (rhyming poem from the bird's POV)

Wednesday, October 6th: Common Grackle (short free verse)

Thursday, October 7th: Rallidae (except not really - this giant extinct flightless Haitian bird isn't a true member of the rail family, Rallidae, but I couldn't resist writing a limerick about it anyway)


Today's roundup is here.


Elisabeth said...

Oh my Ruth there is so much I love about this poem - it's quiet and contemplative - that feeling you get when you are out in nature (maybe looking for birds, maybe not). I love what you've done with the form - echoing elements through each sighting of the Common Yellowthroat birds. Just lovely. Thanks for sharing this.

jama said...

Enjoyed your encounters with yellow throats, Ruth!

tanita✿davis said...

What a lovely memory -- and I saw my first Cedar Waxwings last year, and "delicate and dapper" is fully the most PERFECT description of them.

Michelle Kogan said...

I like your marking your days by the birds—one can spot them, but then they take off so quickly–kinda like offspring when they grow up… Thanks Ruth!

Linda Mitchell said...

Ah ha! I found the trick to getting to the comment section. I have to google your blog separate from Mr. Linky. Crossing paths with birds -- so much rich relationship in this poem. I like a happy poem and this has happiness and joy tucked in everywhere. I wonder what the birds thought when they saw you in all those places?

KatApel - said...

Turns out, I love this little conversational birdwatching jaunt. Thank-you for taking me along with you.

Linda B said...

I remember this trick mentioned above, too! Your poem is wonderful, those 'tricks' of bird-watching as you follow that yellowthroat through, well, your life's travels. I do love also that part with the kids, sweetly written about their presence. It's a capture I imagine you will keep close, Ruth.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Okay, I'm sorry but I can't concentrate on birdwatching after going back to the Neruda ode and Siempre Yo! Yes yes yes, that IS what we poets do, maybe even more than any visual or musical artist, more than fiction writers? I started my own poem about this phenomenon, but Pablo has done it already. Why do I not own a Neruda book?!

Mary Lee said...

I love the repetition you used as you "followed" the birds across the country. The ending is just right.

Carol Varsalona said...

I am enjoying reading through your birding posts. I left a comment on Day 9 about the blue heron.