A cloudy day to see things for the first time,
Stalking trails with you where marshes sneak
Into open ponds, firewheels glow
In grasses tall as men.
You always seem to spot the birds before me,
Silhouettes your binoculars slyly reveal:
Vultures, crows, gruff guardians of this demesne,
The pastel puff of a bluebird
Balanced on a trail sign.
Drifting into a spotting competition
(As we often seem to do),
A faint tremor in my eye’s rim:
First to score a ladybug and bee together,
Stem bending beneath their weight.
You grunt in grudging admiration,
Sharing our seeker’s pride and envy –
The struggle of their tiny lives
Eclipsed by our leering shadows.
Those Canadian geese, far from home,
The knotted riddle of a water snake.
Herons creep the shoreline, stabbing for minnows,
The silver-scalloped sky alarms for rain.
Beating the storm home with plundered memories,
Stolen shadows of the careful bee, the wary crow,
All this furtive bright-to-dark world
Ghosting from our greedy eyes.
(First published in different form in Backchannels Poetry Edition, Spring 2023 – thanks to the editors.)