Looking back now, forty years gone,

my lack of curiosity about the river

I lived with daily disappoints me.


Maybe that’s the way of youth,

to be fixated on origins and ends –

things far off, the cold mountain spring,

the distant sea, not the everyday.


The slow brown stream, an ox,

harnessed to the yoke of industry,

was as common as my neighbors

and as of as little interest.


I carried with me in those days  the hard stone of contempt

that the young may bear for the familiar to mask their fear and uncertainty.


From the bluffs above Lock and Dam #2

I watched the tugs push their coal barges downriver,

imagined the days and nights of their long journeys,

past Pittsburgh, down the Ohio to the soft-banked Mississippi,

past all  the towns with their wonderful sounding names --

            Gallipolis, Oceola, Tallulah --


Dreamed of the bayous and ocean --

rank climbing life -- 

ibises and spoonbills amongst cypress swamps --

and the hot green cities –

            Baton Rouge, New Orleans --

copper-haired women, skin sheened with sweat,

and the sharp clean wail of a saxophone

calling down heaven.



Still, We Have the Birds


The morning is filled with the chatter of blackbirds,

this is a sudden and stunning awareness that pulls

the cord of my attention taut.   It is as if an entire nation

had moved, in secret, to the neighborhood 

late at night and awaited

only this moment to announce itself.


Late February --Has spring arrived already,

kicked into high gear

by the hard boot of global warming?


Maybe so and yet, at times even the most dire things

can be quite pleasant,

as this precocious greening day,

and I find myself whistling.


Though our polity chokes in the thickening fog of empire,

and we march in willful ignorance toward extinction,

noisy and quarrelsome as a murder of crows,

following our chosen madmen,


Still, we have the birds,

these sudden ambushes of joy.


Michael Adams



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