Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: ghazals

Ghazal for Seven Goddesses

Pilgrims lost their way and wept, hearts broken
at the plundered tomb of their slain goddess.

Forests withered; deserts grew. Clouds stood still
for summons from a silent rain goddess.

Did you tremble before rocket engines
that ended your long lunar reign, goddess?

The old arthritic masters paint you vain,
so I near missed you dressed so plain, goddess.

Myths tell of deities for all things of
sky and sea. Come fly, oh airplane goddess.

Gasoline, butane, ethylene, your names
burn bright, oh my fiery propane goddess.

I’ll sing the verse, the chorus, chant. I’ll keep
the lonely beat for your refrain, goddess.

Another goddess poem that kind of references this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one. I wonder if the other two goddesses will get their own poems some day.

I first posted the couplets on Twitter. I’ve been doing that with some of my old ghazals too and seeing how (or if) they work as tweets.

Ghazal for a Nearly Forgotten Rain Goddess

Wilderness is a circus ride; I jump
silver turnstiles and dodge my fare tonight.

Somewhere on the withered plains, coyotes
howl and cry as they leave their lairs tonight.

Lonely weather satellites trek all through
the salted skies like robot prayers tonight.

You claim constellations for forgotten
nations on dusty roads we share tonight.

Your voice, mellifluous, you whisper and
name the hurricane wind-stirred air tonight.

Come thunder and southern lightning storms you
rejoice, “Let rainfall be our heir tonight.”

I’ve had my students experimenting with ghazal writing. It’s been interesting, and some of them have really gotten into it. A few had trouble grasping the radif (that repeating word at the end of each couplet) and wrote some decent poems sans radif. Trying to help them figure out how to get a radif in there, I turned to Johnny Cash and suggested they try his example from “I’ve Been Everywhere”:

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve crossed the deserts bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.

Not a ghazal really, but a ghazalish chorus at least. And so I got a few ghazals that use homie and dawg as the radif. Several of them worked quite well and would even make decent raps, which is why I think the kids who are serious about rapping really latched onto this.

Oh, and mellifluous was the word of the day. Bonus points are added to any assignment in which students use their SAT words of the day.

Ghazal of Treaty Oak

Great Treaty Oak, a poisoned husk,
bent boughs beneath this ashen dusk.

The deals we reached beneath this tree
portended its pale and broken dusk.

I always dreamed I’d shoot your scenes
beneath theses branches at golden dusk.

Long years and days withered away
and swallowed you in barren dusk.

Odd limbs still live and mingle with
new high rise lines in token dusk.

Somehow you found the way back home
all through the long moth-eaten dusk.

And the songs of city birds suggest
the dawn of some new-woven dusk.

This is for Joseph Harker’s Reverie 14: Ghazal Boot Camp using some of the words from Wordle 51 at The Sunday Whirl.

Note for non-Austinites: Treaty Oak is a 500-year-old southern live oak in downtown Austin. In 1989 some jackass poisoned it. After a major recovery effort, it survived and said jackass went to jail for a good long time. It’s still a big tree but only a fraction of its former self, yet ten years later it started releasing acorns again.

Nameless Stream

I walk as in an autumn dream
to this sweet and secret stream.

Cumulous roiled sky and leaves,
reflections in this cloudlet stream.

Come winter nightfall stars shine
time above this comet stream.

Raindrops pelt the surface of this
momentary wavelet stream.

Despite well known creeks, I’m drawn
each spring to this minute stream.

Turtles travel the muddy road
of this slow and temperate stream.

Summer noon, birds disperse; only
wind around this quiet stream.

How many days have I explored
and sat beside this favorite stream?

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.

U.S. Highways


We read lines and studied rest stop signs to
learn the languages that govern highways.

Electric rivers flowed outward from cities
in red trails along the eastern highways.

We lived on the salty French fry grease and
fast food feasts of American highways.

We waited through summer road construction,
rebuilding and slowing northern highways.

In the mountains, we squinted through the dark
studying switchbacks to discern highways.

Green shadows crept across the road through
endless rolling tree-lined southern highways.

We avoided the rest stop stares of owls
and meth addicts on nocturnal highways.

In the desert night, lightning played with stars,
and we saw God on the western highways.

The engine downshifted, slow to grip the
road; tires clung like goats to mountain highways.

At night in desert motel rooms we laughed
and followed love down unspoken highways.

I and the Bird #126

Today we’ll travel with I and the Bird
to discover the most amazing birds.

We’ll marvel at Rio Blanco shots
of Colombian sylphs and hummingbirds.

We’ll see colors galore in Singapore
on a camera-ignoring sunbird.

We’ll have to get stuck in the mud to see
Avocets, Willets and burrowing birds.

Supporting birding teams, we’ll stop to know
the beautiful woods surrounding birds.

Flammulated Owls live beyond rough trails,
but we learn the wild when surveying birds.

Stop for a moment to consider the
vultures, our maligned highway-cleaning birds.

The vibrant beauty of nature’s revealed
by children carefully coloring birds.

Near a hole on a familiar shore, see
Bank Swallows, brown-and-white scolding birds.

In Zion park, we’ll learn the stories of
certain condors, those distant soaring birds.

We’ll brave the coldest snowy days for owls
and hope all life birds will be living birds.

Viewer warning:  “Sex and the City Bird”
documents the habits of mating birds.

In a blooming sage garden, time stops for
close looks at Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

Recall nature’s red in tooth and claw when
we see crows are squirrel-tongue-eating birds.

Burrowing Owls and roadrunners remind
us of the simple joy of finding birds.

Spend a good day searching for Golden-winged,
Cerulean and other warbling birds.

A witty Straw-necked Ibis has some words.
(Who knew we’d find poetry writing birds?)

We can observe a Red-tailed Hawk’s high nest
and learn all about digiscoping birds.

Strange orange colors on Mallards’ tails pose
questions when we’re closely studying birds.

On the Gulf, pelicans will break our hearts
when we confront loose oil killing birds.

Shearwaters, jaegers and petrels will lead
us to boats for looks at seafaring birds.

We’ll see a Little Gull and lovely terns
on the southwest Queens coast while listing birds

In Madras, we’ll meet pittas and plovers
and sandpipers among the wading birds

“Always be birding,” that’s what we’ll say.
Even in parking lots, we’re finding birds.

That’s it for this trip, I’m signing off. Send
links for the next one to The Drinking Bird.

I’ll Race the Fiercest Gulls

How much time could you borrow to put off
the moment when you’ll go tomorrow?

The sound of earthquakes will reverberate
across saffron-tinged plateaus tomorrow.

Despite the coming squall, will the sky still
fill with pepper-colored crows tomorrow?

Through dizzying emporiums, I’ll hunt
the rare rust-colored rose tomorrow.

I’ll row this boat and race the fiercest gulls
across the Gulf of Mexico tomorrow.

I’ll grind my glass and polish brass to see
as far as Galileo tomorrow.

In tendrils of light across the night, I’ll
write my name to guide you home tomorrow.

Another attempt at writing a ghazal, this time using the words in the wordle prompt (NaPoWriMo #22) with an interesting set of words provided by Catherine. I used all of them except flinch.

One of the things I’ve been doing during NaPoWriMo is experimenting with forms I’ve rarely (or never) attempted and my favorite, thus far, is the ghazal. I first read ghazals in Sarah J. Sloat’s excellent chapbook In the Voice of a Minor Saint (Tilt Press, 2009) and was immediately struck by the form. You can read some of her fine ghazals at Linebreak and Eclectica (the one at Linebreak appears in the chapbook).

I only know of the form what I’ve read in wikipedia and deduced from studying Sloat’s poems and a few others I’ve found here and there, but when NaPoWriMo is over, I’ll probably try to learn more since it’s a form I find quite compelling.

Starghazaling (A Thousand Evolutions)

We walked long hours following sacred stars
and watched for signs of certain darkened stars.

The moon rose thin and razor-like, slicing
a course across the meridian stars.

You traced the secret constellation lines
on my homemade maps of fallen stars.

I followed the moon’s trek across the void
and through the gaseous graves of ruined stars.

You talked about explosions bursting with
a thousand evolutions born in stars.

The atoms in our fingertips trembled
as we pondered our origins in stars.

Our hands met as our thoughts lingered on strange
dim memories of long forgotten stars.

I looked into your eyes—saw new worlds and
the echoes of eternity in stars.

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