Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: birds nobody loves (page 2 of 4)

While Sitting in Church (videopoem)

I made this back in March and never got around to uploading it and then forgot all about it until something sparked my memory yesterday. It’s based my poem of the same name, originally posted a little over a year ago. This is the second video I’ve made from my Birds Nobody Loves series (the first was “Chasing Westward”).

The images are photoshopped versions of some of my pictures of black and turkey vultures. I’m planning to use these as illustrations in the Birds Nobody Loves collection I’m slowly (so slowly) putting together.

The real purpose of this video was experimental. I wanted to try to figure out how to make my editing software do the “Ken Burns effect” that was so nicely done in “Beach/Snow” a beautiful video by Peter Stephens. It was complicated but once I had it figured out, it got a lot easier to get the pans and zooms I wanted.

The music is by Oleg Serkov downloaded from Jamendo and licensed under a cc-by-nc-sa license. This is the first time I’ve used Jamendo for music for a video. There’s a lot of good stuff there besides Mr. Serkov’s wonderful work.

As to the poem, it comes from the church I attended when I was in high school. It was built on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Travis. They built it lengthwise and placed the altar on the long side which was made entirely of glass so it was easy to let your mind wander out to the open sky above the lake where turkey vultures circled endlessly.

I’ve always found it strange that church is held indoors but that church anyway made it feel like you weren’t completely disconnected from the natural world, which is why I still consider it the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen.

It is also where my fascination with vultures began. Watching them each Sunday, thinking about their place in the scheme of things and watching their effortless flight, I couldn’t help but fall in love with them while witnessing in awe the sheer wonder and beauty of creation.

Good Authority

Good Authority

I always thought they’d like death metal,
but I’ve got it on good authority
vultures prefer smooth jazz.

Ambulance rides can be rough;
vultures know this and relax.
Watching the highway, they know
everyone gets his turn.

Turkey vultures can smell a corpse
from hundreds of feet up. Outflying
Cessnas they arrive first on the scene.

Black vultures follow, pushing
the solitary turkeys to the rotting edges.

The black vultures brag that by traveling
together they’ve learned to attack and kill
small animals: calves and possums.

Straightening their ties, they discuss
elaborate plans to go public. Someday,
they claim, they will become hawks or eagles.

The turkey vulture listens to this talk,
wondering if he too will evolve.

This is a rerun of sorts. It was published 2 years ago over at Bolts of Silk (thanks, Juliet!) and I thought I’d bring it over here in its slightly modified form. I’m in the process of putting together all my Birds Nobody Loves poems into a short collection, making a few minor changes here and there. I’ll write more about it as I get closer to releasing these birds…

Say Grackle

Purple iridescence,
and a hard-edged thrill to say.

How can a person not love
any chance to speak that word:


I’ll never understand
why everyone hates grackles.

(But then I don’t have
thousands living in my trees.)

Out the window as I type,
a fledgling takes food:

an adult showing
the young bird how to live.

I’ll lose a whole day watching,
wondering where they’ll go.

Maybe I’m not the only person who loves grackles.

Easter Morning

this backyard wildlife…
a congregation awake
discovering spring

a new mourning dove
on the fence by the feeder
studies the others

young squirrels—
so much thinner
than the adults

a new family
house sparrows chirping
the busy backyard

six house finches
learning the hummingbird feeder
sun-sparks in water

fledgling goldfinches
flap inexperienced wings
on Easter morning

This weekend, we were treated to families of lesser goldfinches, house finches, house sparrows, mourning doves and fox squirrels coming around the backyard so the adults could show their young where to find the food. The juveniles were clearly just out of their respective nests as they were following the adults around flapping their wings and chirping to be fed. It’s never long before the babies figure out how to find food on their own at which point they will be indistinguishable from the adults.

I’ve seen this in the backyard with black-crested titmice, common grackles, mockingbirds, cardinals, Carolina chickadees, and Bewick’s wrens, and it’s one of the joys of feeding birds (and squirrels) but I’ve never seen so many at once.  It was, quite simply, stunning and humbling. Songbirds don’t live long and most don’t even make it through their first year, but I like to think that at least some of these birds will be out there for a while, maybe waiting for me to count them one day down along the pond trail.

Publication announcement: My haibun “The Grackle Tree” from my Birds Nobody Loves series is in the latest issue of the ‘zine Nothing. No One. Nowhere. Thanks to the editors for publishing it along with so many other wonderful poets. It’s an honor to be included.

CSI: Sky

The hawk is an acrobat and an impostor—
he flies with vultures and when he banks
his lighter plumage blazes in the sun,
betraying him to anyone down below with
eyes to see and secrets to conceal. The butcher
hides in plain sight among the forensics birds;
it’s a good procedural crime drama. I search
the woods for evidence, but these guys
are too good, too thorough, and I wonder
how I stumbled into this perfect scheme.

The Greyhound Muse

Perhaps I should be the poet laureate of my dog since Joey appears in two poems of mine that are recently published. The first, “Greyhound Joey vs. the Grackle” appears along with “North through Fog” in the February 2011 issue of the Houston Literary Review. The first of those is from my “Birds Nobody Loves” series which will someday be a chapbook and the other is from the “Highway Sky” series which is starting to sneak beyond chapbook length. Thanks to the editors of the Houston Literary Review for publishing those.

Joey’s literary adventures don’t end there, though. He also appears in a micro-haibun in the new pay attention: a river of stones anthology published by Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita who edited a massive amount of submissions from January’s river of stones challenge to produce a beautiful book that is worth every moment spent slowing down to savor it. There were a number of stones that I read in January as well as many that I missed along with some wonderful prose pieces. It was a treat to read again some of my favorites by Beth Adams, Angie Werren, Mark Stratton, and Kris Lindbeck. Along with some prose reflections on small stone writing by Beth Adams, Jean Morris, Laurie Kolp and Margo Roby. You can read the 2 stones I contributed at my mirco-poetry blog here and here (the second is another “Birds Nobody Loves” piece) or you can buy the book, which is really good.

And, now, Joey needs a walk. We’ll talk literature, and he’ll remind me that greyhounds are the only breed of dog mentioned in the Bible and then, who knows what inspiration the four-legged muse will next provide.

Want to make a fast friend by saving a greyhound in Central Texas? Check these pups out. Or go here to find a greyhound near you. You can also go here to find out why greyhounds are running for their lives.

If you have dogs who need proven leadership, go here to find a cat.

Grackle Ghazal

I stroll the streets and dodge mangy grackles,
fluttering birds in trees, those angry grackles.

Black feet and dark beaks snap at my sandwich—
I’m surrounded by the grabby grackles!

I sit a bench and study pawns and queens
‘til “checkmate’s” called by the cagey grackles.

At dinner parties, I near drop my drink
shocked by the sins of the feisty grackles.

I hang for hours on back porches, strumming
old guitars, swapping lies with folksy grackles.

At night, I roost in city trees and sing
croaking wild songs, toasting jolly grackles.

This is in response to Big Tent’s prompt about alliteration. There’s some in there, but the process led to a ghazal and some grackles.

Go to the Big Tent to see what others came up with.

For those who may not know, grackles are, like blackbirds, members of the icterid family. Here in central Texas, we see two species: the common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) and the great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus).

This post was included in I and the Bird #142 hosted at Birds O’ The Morning.

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

Grackles poke around the right-of-way,
a confusion of iridescent-robed seekers,
an endless search for grass seeds.

The junkie at the intersection watches,
never takes his eyes off the grackles
even when I hand him some crackers
and dried bits of bread. I look in his eyes,

nobody’s home, and we both understand
the birds’ bright yellow eyes are more alive,
more aware of the gray curtain coming
down fast from the north. He stretches his arms

ready to ride that icy tailwind south, but the
light changes to green—too many cars now
block his path, but it’s useless anyway.

All his flight feathers fell out six years ago.

He stands in exhaust fumes, praying that
grackles share seed when snow’s coming.

This poem is older than today. The solstice here in Austin came in hot and overcast so the eclipse was a non-event, but fortunately for the people on those street corners with the grackles, it’s not cold and certainly not likely to snow. At least not tonight.

I wrote this as part of my Birds Nobody Loves series, but I guess it can also fit with Highway Sky.

Update: I just discovered One Stop Poetry (tip of the cyber hat to Dick Jones for showing the way), another cool poetry sharing site and so I’ve linked this there. Go check out some of the other great work to be found in this week’s One Shot Wednesday.

Great-tailed Grackle

Passive Hunters in Their Blinds

Deer run thick along our road;
they don’t even think about the cars.

Vultures fly thick above our road;
they know all about the cars and wait.

At night, they hiss from the trees, grunting
tales about all the cars that stopped in time.

The deer don’t usually remember, but
they still forget to fear the cars, so unlike
discriminating mountain lions and wolves,
forgotten now despite genetic warnings.

The vultures watch the cars approach,
watch the deer stand still or sometimes
whisper, “Run,” just a moment too late.

I don’t begrudge the vultures’ venison;
their meals must be pretty tasty to them
and besides (I admit it) I sometimes find

I’m fascinated by their early morning
meetings around their roadside meals.

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