psychopomp

FOREVER FRIENDS

 

Through two decades

A dead Live Oak

Stood upright

Perch for families

Of Florida Black Vultures

What sights I’ve seen

On that stage

Young buzzards courting

Males competing for

The belle of the bough

Married couple kissing

Passing food between beaks

Here they are with baby

Showing him how to perch

And search

For newly-made swamp corpses

Other days watching them

Wings outspread

Drying out stormy feathers

One day the mom and dad gone

Baby sat for three days

Finally the smaller one returned

Maybe dad creamed by a car

While cleaning up the road kill

In the middle of city streets

Then the other day

A muffled crash in the swamp

Perch finally fell

And here I go in pursuit of my “art”

Worrying about Water Moccasins

And other snakes

As I wade through the grass

Snap, snap

On smart phone

That does no justice

To the thumbnails of Nature

Suddenly recalling last week

Vulture in my yard

Broken wing

Hopping around

Looking for a way out

I opened the gate and tried shooing him

But he didn’t get it

He did find a pile of tables and plants

Climbed up over the fence

Relieved he escaped

Yet what are the chances

A bird will live safely

With a damaged wing

Birds

Trees

Life yet death symbols for me

And I recall sitting under

Another Live Oak

Many years ago

And it splitting

For no good reason

Phone ringing, me running

My mother’s voice funereal

My favorite uncle died

The trees never lie

But do I think a tree

Can actually be

A psychopomp?

Birds play that role for me

But would a bird

Lead a bird

To the afterlife

Or does the tree’s soul

Take control?

After all

They were friends for so many years…

FL Black Vulture on my swamp perch

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGES: Live Oak perch fallen in my swamp and FL Black Vulture on the perch in my swamp

 

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A LIFETIME OF BIRDS

Rima Royal :  (seven lines in iambic pentameter rhyming ABA/BB/CC. Can be constructed either as a tercet and two couplets [a-b-a, b-b, c-c] or a quatrain and a tercet [a-b-a-b, b-c-c] )

A lifetime acquired for me to see

That birds have mysteriously uttered

In sad song or joyful, words meant for me.

Some came alone and some in flocks fluttered

But I did not mistake what they muttered.

Old age understands messages from birds

Tweetings and twitterings, meaningful words.

Three year old memory, illness at night

Screaming and scaring my parents with fear

“Pigeons!” I cried in bed, “Birds are all white!”

“No,” says my dad, “See? No pigeons are here”

“Pigeons are gray,” mom’s voice dings like a sneer.

Tears fall yet I hear a song from the flock

“Life is hard, be strong, like crystalline rock.”

Doctor consultation after sunrise

The overdose of sulfa is to blame

Hallucinations are the mind’s own lies.

Forget the birds, some allergies can maim

Hallucinations only bring us shame.

Yet I can’t forget the pigeons’ sweet song

To be strong in life will never be wrong.

Ah, age ten, dead bird on the wet pavement

Nowhere to dig a grave in the city

Soggy cardboard box may be heaven-sent.

Oh young bird, with a red vest so pretty

Evoking my sadness and my pity.

Into the box with a bright fabric scrap

Sail down the gutter, an eternal nap.

Not many days later a day of gloom

My dad’s dad passed on to heaven, they said

And next my mom’s gran locked up in a tomb.

Gazing out the window, red bird made me dread

That messages of birds meant someone’s dead.

Book-learned a new word for those who have died

“Psychopomp” leads souls to the other side.

Time does weave among the waves so swollen

Seagulls dive-bomb us beached humans eating,

Laughing sons watching lunch being stolen

A new quest to calm my heart’s dark beating

Appeasing the birds, death needs some cheating.

Feathers attract me on a sandy beach

Or beneath the el where I easily reach.

The years fly by like the raven and crane

Feather-filled vases keep sadness away

Emotional change, relationship strain.

New land, new birds, cardinal and blue jay

Alone with many hours in the day.

After three years the aethers hear me say

Stop the loneliness, send someone today.

I sit by the lake, someone shares my soul

Hawk stares in my eyes then veers to the sky

Peace settles in, I finally feel whole.

Perception in chaos, life’s worth a try

Trust in the hawk’s vision while flying high.

In two months a man named Hawk comes to me

Possessed with visual acuity.

We partner and life continues to flow

Strange manifestations seem to appear

Older family generations go.

Superimposed gran’s face in the mirror

Dies on my birthday, couldn’t be clearer.

Death warnings now come from my friend, the crow

A Live Oak splits, it’s my uncle, I know

Mother, father, relatives now depart

But warnings of the birds help me prepare

Yet survivor sadness engulfs my heart.

Hot day outside, woodpecker in my hair

I fight him, toss my head, too much to bear.

Favorite aunt off for routine surgery

Blockage in her carotid artery.

We speak, she sounds strong, I feel I can breathe

Gathering teardrops that fall on the floor

But it doesn’t take long for me to grieve

A shelf falls apart and cardinals soar

Flinging scarlet selves into our glass door

A warning ignored from birds who sing out

Remind me to never show any doubt.

Weeks later a huge white bird on a limb

Seemingly speaks to me with eyes aflare

Plain as if hearing an acoustic hymn.

Walking toward the deck, she follows me there

She stands four feet tall, I become aware

“Be strong, be prepared, be joyful, be wise

Lessons of the birds descend from the skies.”

© 2014 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja) Madame Sosostris Explains (a poetry patchwork)

IMAGES: adventuresinlightphotoworkshops.com