Dispatches from Devereux Slough

Mark Jarman

 
Black Phoebe
Highwayman of the air, coal-headed, darting
Plunderer of gnat hordes, lasso with beak –
"Surely, that fellow creature on the wing,"
The phoebe thinks, "should fly like this."
                     And loops
His flight path in a wiry noose, takes wing
Like a cast line and hits the living fly,
Ripping it from the fluid of its life.
Devereux Lagoon
Shiners leap ahead of diving cormorants
And killdeer cry, alarming one another.
In an egret's beak, the catch flashes like shook foil.
How well these field glasses scope out the place—
A kestrel sky, serrations of the Madres,
And sand flats darkened by a rare rain shower.
Such an odd peace, as creatures stalk each other
Dispatch from Devereux Slough
               Fall, 2008
The gulls have no idea.
The distant bark of sea lions gives nothing away.
The white-tailed kite flutters and hunts.
The pelicans perform their sloppy angling.
The ironbark eucalyptus dwells in ignorance and beauty.
And the night herons brood in their heronry like yoga masters, each balanced on a twig.
The world has changed. The news will take some time to get here.
From the Garden Toad
A cri de coeur of mud, a heartfelt groan
Of deep damp, mother rainfall and her sire;
A plea from underground, from drooping shade,
From memories of sunlight and clear water;
Reproach of an old grandparent half-forgotten –
All in that voice, announcing a desire
To have sex under the giant philodendron.
Marine Layer
No one is out tonight, but just in case,
A tubaphone's deep echo, like a seine net,
Sweeps under darkness and pulls darkness in
The way a trellis shadow cages light.
To hear the foghorn is to hear your childhood,
If you were lucky to have lived near ocean,
Moving again into your neighborhood.
Overcast on Ellwood Mesa
Hawks like it. Wings cast no shadow, hovering,
And white crowned sparrows are easier to pick out
Among the foxtails, scurrying like mice.
Under the gray cloud cover, blue birds course
Like running water through the fennel stalks,
And the shrike, color of the sky, keeps watch
From the barbed wire of the startling green golf course.
September Song
Those phosphorescent shoulders of the night surf
Passing beneath the pier,
                     as we looked down,
Were an agitation in the falling water
Of creatures set to glowing,
                     all together,
By sudden apprehension, which we perceived
As incandescent wonder,
                     our eyes feasting,
Our hearts filled by the light of crashing down.
Shorebreak, 3 a.m.
At night the swell and crash, the swell and crash,
As waves rush forward, peak, and then collapse
Gasping and giving up a ghost of spray,
Sounds from a distance like a low-voiced hush.
Awake, alone, at the right hour to hear it,
That hush, for all the sleeplessness behind it,
Can lead one, walking wounded, back to sleep.
Sundowner
Waking at nightfall like the other monsters,
The vampire and the moonstruck wolfman, arson
Is hardly required to set your body burning,
Thirsting for dryness, dry brush, stucco houses.
Flame wind, ember wind, wind of moonlit smoke,
Rolling a fog of ash downhill to sea,
The sun's down is the harsh fur of your burning.
Surgeons
The egret is more patient than any watcher
And lances its incision when its stillness
Has made one look away.
                     Its anesthetic
Is stillness, and it numbs the water's skin.
The pelican takes a hatchet to the water,
The egret plies a scalpel.
                        They extract fish,
But one by smash and gulp, and one by stillness.
The Crystal Ship
       Sands Beach, Goleta
The famous rock star thought up his famous rock song
While gazing out at the oil derrick offshore.
Lit up at night it might look, to stoned eyes,
Like a faceted galleon perfect for a song.
Tonight, as sunset gives off its green flash,
The derrick has that look.
                     And so does the oil barge
Docked to it, dead black, filling up with cargo.
To a Dead Sea Lion at Sands Beach
You had returned from dry land back to water,
Preferring it, and welcomed the new limbs,
Webbed to conceal your toe and finger bones.
You rolled along the surf, all memory
Of other motion swept back in your wake,
And ended here, among fly-buzzing kelp.
Sleek swimmer drowned,
            and with your unwebbed bones.
Heaven
When we are reunited after death,
The owls will call among the eucalyptus,
The white tailed kite will arc across the mesa,
And sunset cast orange light from the Pacific
Against the golden bush and eucalyptus
Where flowers and fruit and seeds appear all seasons
And our paired silhouettes are waiting for us.
 
From Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems, published by Sarabande Books. Copyright © 2011 by Mark Jarman. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Descriptions of Heaven and Hell by Mark Jarman
The wave breaks
Ground Swell by Mark Jarman
Is nothing real but when I was fifteen,
If I Were Paul by Mark Jarman
Consider how you were made.
Jeffers by Mark Jarman
To raise a stump of rock into a tower, rolling a stone
My Parents Have Come Home Laughing by Mark Jarman
My parents have come home laughing
Spell for Encanto Creek by Mark Jarman
Tall blades of tufted grasses, keep on flowing
Tale of Two Cities by Mark Jarman
Sick as it approaches, sick as it departs.
The Black Riviera by Mark Jarman
There they are again. It's after dark.
The Supremes by Mark Jarman
In Ball's Market after surfing till noon,
Then Saw the Problem by Mark Jarman
How do you turn into a flower of the field
Transfiguration by Mark Jarman
They were talking to him about resurrection, about law,


Further Reading

Related Poems
Pacific Slope
by Stephen Motika
Poems about Birds
Tender Buttons [Chicken]
by Gertrude Stein
Littlefoot, 19, [This is the bird hour]
by Charles Wright
Rocket Fantastic [excerpt]
by Gabrielle Calvocoressi
The Scarlet Ibis, Section VII
by Susan Hahn
A Bird came down the Walk (328)
by Emily Dickinson
A Bird in Hand
by Amber Flora Thomas
A Peacock in Spring
by Joyelle McSweeney
Albatross in Co. Antrim
by Robin Robertson
Birdcall
by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Birding at the Dairy
by Sidney Wade
Birds Again
by Jim Harrison
Birds Appearing In A Dream
by Michael Collier
Black bird, red wing
by Nickole Brown
Darwin's Finches
by Deborah Digges
Dove, Interrupted
by Lucie Brock-Broido
Evening Hawk
by Robert Penn Warren
Ground Birds in Open Country
by Stanley Plumly
Gulls
by William Carlos Williams
Hardware Sparrows
by R. T. Smith
Home to Roost
by Kay Ryan
Hope is the thing with feathers (254)
by Emily Dickinson
Hummingbird
by Elaine Terranova
I am Like a Desert Owl, an Owl Among the Ruins
by Noelle Kocot
If the Owl Calls Again
by John Haines
In Flight
by Jennifer K. Sweeney
In the Memphis Airport
by Timothy Steele
Interlude
by Edith Sitwell
Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens
by Jack Prelutsky
Leda and the Swan
by W. B. Yeats
Leda, After the Swan
by Carl Phillips
Let Birds
by Linda Gregg
My Mother Would Be a Falconress
by Robert Duncan
Ode to a Nightingale
by John Keats
Paper Swallow
by Stanley Moss
Poet as Immortal Bird
by Ron Padgett
Red-Legged Kittiwake
by Emily Wilson
Revision in My Wife's Powder Room
by Lauren Berry
Small Study
by Emily Wilson
Song of the Owl
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sympathy
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy
The Eagle
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
The Heron
by Linda Hogan
The Life So Short...
by Eamon Grennan
The Nightingale
by Sir Philip Sidney
The Parakeets
by Alberto Blanco
The Raven
by Edgar Allan Poe
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Sparrow
by Gerald Stern
The Starlings
by Jesper Svenbro
The Windhover
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Yellow Bittern (An Bunnan Bui)
by Cathal Bui Mac Giolla Gunna
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens
Three Moves
by John Logan
Tigers
by Melissa Ginsburg
To a Skylark
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
To a Waterfowl
by William Cullen Bryant
White Stork
by Michael Waters
Wild Swans
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Poems About Weather
(Soma)tic 5: Storm SOAKED Bread
by CAConrad
Becoming Weather, 21
by Chris Martin
Snow-Bound [The sun that brief December day]
by John Greenleaf Whittier
The Book of a Thousand Eyes [Rain, queen]
by Lyn Hejinian
A Line-storm Song
by Robert Frost
A Winter Without Snow
by J. D. McClatchy
An Octave Above Thunder
by Carol Muske-Dukes
Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm
by Carl Phillips
Even the Rain
by Agha Shahid Ali
Flood
by Miyazawa Kenji
Flood
by Eliza Griswold
Great Sleeps I Have Known
by Robin Becker
History of Hurricanes
by Teresa Cader
Identity Crisis
by F. D. Reeve
In April
by James Hearst
Into Bad Weather Bounding
by Bin Ramke
It Was Raining In Delft
by Peter Gizzi
L’Avenir est Quelque Chose
by Dobby Gibson
November
by William Cullen Bryant
Now Winter Nights Enlarge
by Thomas Campion
Ode to the West Wind
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Passage I
by Maureen N. McLane
Problems with Hurricanes
by Victor Hernández Cruz
Purism
by Vona Groarke
Radar Data #12
by Lytton Smith
Rain
by Claribel Alegría
Shells
by Elaine Terranova
Sitting Outside
by W. D. Snodgrass
Sleet
by Alan Shapiro
Snow
by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Clouded Morning
by Jones Very
The Hurricane
by William Carlos Williams
The Snow Storm
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Storm
by Theodore Roethke
The Woman and the Flame
by Aimé Césaire
Today A Rainstorm Caught Me
by Matt Hart
Who Has Seen the Wind?
by Christina Rossetti