Happy Trails

happy trails flickr jay tilston

Here’s a poem which appears in my book Pick it up and Read:


Sonnet on a Line from Frost


There is a singer everyone has heard

who lived the fifties in the USA

and everyone whose hair is not yet gray

can sing his theme song like a mournful bird

Whenever someone disappears from view

to take a new job, move to a new home,

to bid farewell to a familiar realm,

someone will warble “Happy Trails to You”.

The drunken singer waving from the bar

remembers Roy and Dale who wave goodbye

The friends who watch the packed, departing car

are humming out their wishes with a sigh..

Even the final journey into death

will find the tune there on the skipping breath.






The Cat and the Fireworks

cat fireworksfrom cats uk org

from Cats uk .org


Here’s a poem that appears in my book Reconnaissance:


The Cat and the Fireworks



At the first volley of fireworks,

unseen except for flashes

of lightening like light,

the calico cat sprang to alert.

leapt to the windowsill,

retreated under the bed,

then emerged and sprang to the

top of the bureau.

A low growl rumbled from

her belly-

a sound I never heard her make before.

Deep, rolling growl

sound radiating through fur

as she watched from

her patrol post

for the duration of the fireworks.

She became the cat in someone’s bedroom

in London,

on the first night of the Blitz.

She became the cat distracted from catching rats in the church

in Dresden,

as the planes rained down fire and boulders.


She became the cat cowering in the doorway

in Baghdad,

When the Americans bombed Saddam

back to his bunker.


All the cats

in all the arrowstruck, cannonstruck

cities down the centuries,

interrupted, startled,

terrified, growling deep,

feral, innocent,

instincts bristling.


 Fireworks from columbian blogs comfrom ColumbianBlogs.com





lambs ears may 24

Here’s a poem  that appears in my book How the Hand Behaves, along with some photos from my garden.




Lambs’ ears flourish, creased gray, furry,

new growth out of rain’s far fury.

Sneezewort carries cups of pearl;

white buds open on grace green stems.

Hosta – plates, pipes, ridges, rims,

Coneflower gems of purple whorled.


Sedum rosettes beyond counting,

roots fat carrots, land lust mounting,

seek earth’s fountain, wide beneath.

Gardeners rest with these guests planted,

take low maintenance for granted,

fingers caress cream cusp of leaf.


 pink astilbe june13 12


Unseasonably Warm

lets_be_friend iris

It’s so hot here today that I thought of this poem of mine, which appears in my book Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky:


Unseasonably warm


She should not be drinking whiskey tonight

even chilled with ice and laced with ginger.

The still air syrupy as July

and it’s only May,

global warming fermenting her garden

into producing Iris three weeks early.

Iris stalks lean drunkenly into the azalea,

her shameless veined gold magenta labia curling

over the thyme.








Have Mercy on us. Stay with us.


I am a birdwatcher, and my passion has also made me an environmentalist. I worry about the effect our pollution has on many birds.

Here is a poem I wrote about 15 years ago. It appears in my book Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky:

Litany of the Audubon Calendar


Eyes of the great gray owl, intent and yellow,

at the pit of the gray grooved bowl of feathers,

largest owl in the world,

whose facial disk can hear the faintest sounds,

the mouse rustling just under the new snow…


Northern saw whet owl, big as my hand,

out for the voles,

Have mercy on us. Stay with us.


Red billed oxpecker in Africa, starling hanging

on the mane of the giraffe, brown and buff flagstones of fur,

picking out lice and ticks, cleaning and feeding at once,


Harris hawk which I carried on my forearm once at a fair,

which nests in the crotch of giant Saguaro, social raptor, favorite of falconers,

Have mercy on us. Stay with us.


Great egrets dancing in love or dispute,

plume birds with grace feathers streaming around them,

stick black legs,feet entwined in the air…

Great egret, frog in beak, neck like a hose, white feather smooth as leather,

Mild orange beak long shears and a dime gold eye…


Sand hill cranes equal in the sky,

legs and feet so equal in length to neck and head, silhouetted,

Black-crowned Night Heron, cosmopolitan ,wide ranging, crowds of you nesting

wild in the wide oak branches of the bird section of the National Zoo,

air noisy with your conversation,


Have mercy on us. Stay with us.


Cape May Warbler, rarely at Cape May,

Dependent on the health of spruce stands, eating the spruce budworm,

Flying to the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles in the winter,

Singing in the cemetery in Cincinnati in the spring


Black throated green warbler, flirting in the cemetery in Cincinnati,

jewel gold , black and yellow head,

common and confiding species, long distance migrant,

lost in the cloud on the radar screen,


Have mercy on us. Stay with us.

Black-throated green warbler fall foliage eileen wise sept 29

Black-throated green warbler    Photo by Eileen Wise

Ruby crowned kinglet by Jeff bray

Ruby-crowned Kinglet     photo by Jeff Bray

Name Your Poison

170px-Snow_White_Witch Gustaf Tenggren

Gustaf Tengrren      sketch for Snow White



Here’s a poem from my book  Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky:

Name Your Poison


Apple morsel

choked Snow White

Belladonna, called the witch.


Bloodroot floods the forest,

cousin to monkshood, Jack in the Pulpit,

companion to crowfoot,

dogbane, devils’trumpet,

deadly orchestra.


Back home,

the medicine cabinet

carries Dilantin, Digitalis,



In the kitchen,

Warm wood cabinet under the sink

hides Drano, lye, bleach.


In the far corner of the basement

grey peeling shelf

supports arsenic, strychnine, malathion.


Sun flecked garden

flaunts Colchium, Lobelia;

Far corner of the back yard

shades Lily of the Valley, Bleeding Heart, Larkspur.


Yellow stains skin

heartbeat stutters ,starved of air,

Muscles freeze, tongue burns

Fierce convulsions, pressure plummets.


Thick blue glass bottle glints

on the counter

in an old apothecary shop.

We want it to kill a rat,

said the youngest of the three revelers.

Warwick Goble Death and the Three Revelers

Warwick Goble:  Death and the Three Revelers


Depths down the glacier pool


Here’s a poem I wrote about summer in my childhood. It appears in my book

At the Year’s Elbow:


Head First


Eight years old,

Sleek as a seal

in my shiny wet swimsuit,

I climb the ladder

to the high diving board.


Eight feet up,

balanced by thick summer air,

I slowly bend and see

depths down,

the glacier pool.


Eight o’clock

on the summer evening –

the sun throws

sheets of satin

over the water.

A distant radio runs

mandolin music…

our day will come…

you’re sure to fall

in love…


I think of pirates,

of tumbles down stairs,

of flying.

A quick breath

like a leaf,

and splash


 high dive