Monday, October 5, 2015

Mark Abley: Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air


Dr. William L. Rhein of Harrisburg, deserting his Heartbreak
Hotel-era patients to explore an ancient vestige of
roadless forest high in the western Sierra Madre,
was aboard a mule when a single Imperial
Woodpecker clambered up a dead pine in plain view

and he filmed her foraging the scaly trunk,
chipping the bark, her black lizard-like crest
twitching before she heaved into flight,
her pointed tail disappearing
   beyond his ability   
to deploy a handheld
 camera further:

the only day
her kind was


Chastened, wrinkled, reclusive, he likened the creature to “a great
big turkey flying in front of me,” his hands quivering: now
a few clicks of my index finger revive on a screen 
the ghost of a younger, butterball man in a hat
who drilled cavities to buy his Mexican trip

and reveal an almost heart-shaped whiteness in  
the woodpecker’s folded wings: how she’d leap
off a tree before briskly flapping
away: if the sound equipment
hadn’t weighed so much, we might
still understand just what
Rhein meant by “cackling”

and “the usual
toy trumpet
sounds” she


When biologists, half a century later, found a way back,
they discovered the loggers had left almost nothing uncut:
opium poppies grew where the opulent pines had stood:
 in the minds of oldtimers the largest woodpeckers
ever to roam this planet persisted as half-

forgotten medicine, half-remembered meat
and the trusting dupes of a sawmill boss:
he paid his men to smear the doomed trees
so the birds, using their long pale
beaks to drill for larval grubs,  
would ingest poison and
at a loss for breath

could prevail on
wings no

Mark Abley is a Montreal-based poet, journalist, editor and non-fiction writer. His most recent poetry collection is The Tongues of Earth: New and Selected Poems (Coteau Books, 2015).  ... about Mark Abley  ...  about  The Tongues of Earth

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sharon H. Nelson: Global Warming

Global Warming

This year, different from others
in the long progression
of Laurentian summers
we store in memory
to carry us through winter,
bodies of water shrink,
shorelines reveal themselves.

This year, the hottest summer on record,
the corn stands stunted;
cucumbers are bitter
for lack of water.

This year, no one is grateful
for long, dry days for haying,
the early ripening of crops,
the extraordinary sweetness of wild berries,
the prolonged harvest
of what normally we treasure
because of the brevity
of its season.

Day after day, the sky,
neither blue nor white,
but not quite gray,
looks bleached. 

The Rouge, 
always shallow and sedate,
recedes by feet.

Sandbars shape
as it evaporates.

the leaves fall early,
lie curling
inches deep
on the path to the lake.

they crackle under our feet
as we walk towards water,
for the first time in memory,
swim late in September.

Much farther north,
they say: the sun
burns hotter than it did. 

Here, we pick winter apples
in summer heat, knowing
they won’t keep.

Sharon H. Nelson writes about food, spiritual hunger, and cultural identity. She cooks and gardens in Montreal.     ...  about Sharon. H. Nelson