Tag Archives: Nature poetry

Berry Picking by Will Reger

Lewis Collard--"Blackberries, ripe and unripe"

These are the woods
Where my mother played,
Her playhouse—an outline of
Stones on the ground.
Beside the creek
Her father gardened, 
But the water rose
And spread his seeds 
Among the trees.
Summer was the time
For berry picking.
We each took a bucket,
Walked into the woods
And filled it with berries.
The aunts said, “Don’t pick
The unripe berries,
The rosy green ones,
The color of dawn:
Pick the ripe ones,
Black as hell,
Full of the sun
And ready to explode.”
At the edge of the woods
A castle of canes,
Curving thorns
As sharp as shark’s teeth
Kept us out,
But Grandma’s dog,
An arthritic hound,
His black coat sleek
And hot from the sun
Bayed at some creature and
Shambled after it
Into the thicket.
Above, two eagles
Breasted the wind
Like knives at the ready,
Their scything shadows
Swept across us.
All of this happened,
Nothing remarkable:
But memory sanctifies
Lost moments like this, 
This day of picking
Berries, this day
Of eating fat berries
Till the juice fills our veins.

Will Reger has contributed several poems to WIZ. You can find his bio here.

Photo by Lewis Collard via Wikimedia Commons.

Caught in Snow by Will Reger

Kalina Reger--Monkey Escaped

Her race presumes
Imperious cuteness

Conquers all—even
Monday snowfall when,

From her comfortable nest
At the top of the stairs,

This scroll of fur and claw
Uncoiled, shot outside,

Her eye distilled
For the hunt: tiger demon
Fell to winter’s ambush—

Snow knives, hawk
Shadow circling,

Coyotes lambent
Among the weeds, iron

Curve of sky—and
Beyond the clouds

Orion tips his sword
At each of us.

Will Reger is a history professor at Illinois State University in Champaign. In addition to his contributions to WIZ, he has recently published in Fire in the Pasture and songs/cycles.

Photo by Kalina Reger. Used with permission.

Strength by James Goldberg

Strength 2

I whisper faster than the wind, and my words race through all the earth—

I shake down human mountains and give new regimes their birth—

I shine with burning passion and illuminate the sky—

but God is in the silence, and is still greater than I.

For a bio and additional poems by James Goldberg, go here.

Hunting for Hope by James Goldberg

I read a book about a man who flew out to the Rockies, who flew a thousand miles to hike near the bristlecone pines and to mourn the weight of man on a fragile earth. His son had told him: despair is the price of an ecologist’s education. But he told his son—as the boy backpacked through Europe—that in the many beauties of this wide and varied planet, we still hunt for hope.

And what I could I do but laugh, as I read, about the man who weeps for a warming world he soars across on a fossil-fueled jet, and who longs to protect the distant loveliness he likes to bring under his boot? What can I do but laugh for the men who say we nibble at every corner of a cake so we can find the drive to save it? Who see the herd growing thin and still hunt for hope?

When I want to show my daughter the richness of this earth, we walk. We look at a pill bug in the stairwell, watch for garter snakes in the grass. She chooses at each corner to turn right or left, and we see God’s own creations push their way through the sidewalks’ cracks. We come face to face with mystery in the dancing of a colony of ants.

Hope grows all around us. In a garden such as this, where’s the need to go and hunt?
James Goldberg won the “most popular” award in WIZ’s Spring Runoff 2012 for “Since he was weaned.” He is an award-winning dramatist, and has published in Shofar, Drash, and Irreantum. He is also a founding editor at Everyday Mormon Writer.

Backyard Georgics by Lance Larsen

It takes a calendar one damp day to declare fall,
weeks of dying mums to second the motion.

* * *

Gone the homeland, gone the father, nothing left
but invisible north to magnetize your doubts.

* * *

Not eulogies or hearses but the sandwiches after,
estranged cousins chewing under one umbrella.

* * *

One clock for errands, one for midnight
trysts, though neither will hurry a slow train.

* * *

Prairie is not the floor nor sky the coffered ceiling.
Even a scarecrow is wise beyond its straw.

* * *

Look down: a river of grass. Look up: a velvet lost
and found. Look inside: no straws to drink that dusk.

* * *

A woman’s watch thieved by a jay—ah, to be lifted
like that, to be carried like time across lapping waves.

Lance Larsen will serve as Utah’s poet laureate from May, 2012 until May, 2015. “Backyard Georgics” originally appeared in Poetry. For an introductory essay and Larsen’s bio, go here. For additional poems, go here and here.

Some Minutes by Lance Larsen

After Rolf Jacobsen

Some minutes pinch us in a crowd, some cheer us up,
some dangle us from the Golden Gate,
then at the last instant pull us to safety.
Some minutes wobble, then rise,
a homemade kite with a tail of torn pajamas.
In some minutes you say I do,
in some you vow In this life I would never . . .
Some teach us the difference between “oh” and “o.”
Some say, What’s the use, we’ll all get audited,
whether by God or a flunky at the IRS.
Minute one: you believe in bigfoot.
Minute two: you doubt your ability to boil water.
Minute five: you put on a paper crown.
Meanwhile, minutes three and four join
other unskilled minutes and compose a weekend
trapped inside a snowy misunderstanding
called Montana. In some minutes, a blind man
reads by the light of his wife’s snore.
In some, a tiny girl peeks into a birdbath
to see if she still has a face. Some minutes count
mistakes at a recital, some dream
in neon blue, some keep vigil with the dying
and write down every pause and sigh.
Napoleon whispers, “Josephine.” Oscar Wilde
says, “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”
Anna Pavlova, ballerina, leans forward,
squeezes your hand: “Get my swan costume ready.”

Lance Larsen will serve as Utah’s poet laureate from May, 2012 until May, 2015. “Some Minutes” originally appeared in Backyard Alchemy (Tampa, 2009). For an introductory essay and Larsen’s bio, go here.

WIZ’s 2012 Spring Poetry Runoff Contest and Celebration comes to an end

RodneyLoughWaterfalls public domain

Last year, spring in the Four Corners region of the desert Southwest was comfortably cool; this year, mixed business temperature-wise, but brittle-boned, tinder dry.  When the summer rainmakers come, they’ll find plenty of fodder to feed their range fires.  So far, mosquitoes have been rare and the black gnats–“flying teeth,” as a friend once called them–pretty thinly spread, causing little trouble.  The hummingbirds and orioles that frequent our feeders drain the cups twice a day, which is pretty serious sugar water quaffing for May–especially with those thread-like tongues that the hummingbirds have to work with. So far this spring, I’ve removed one hummingbird and one fence swift from the house.  Because of dry weather, the globe mallow–O, ye of the lovely, sherbert-orange blossoms!–is blooming a bit closer to the ground than it has during previous springs.  The invasive alfalfa that over the last five years had built quite a stronghold in our yard is struggling everywhere except in my garden area where I water the peach trees (which, by the way, surrendered all hope of fruit to a week’s worth of chill o’ the night frosts … except for one tree, which put out two flowers two or three weeks after the rest).  The claret cup cacti is blooming out.  Engleman’s hedgehogs are beginning to flash pink frills.  Prickly pear buds have sprouted like toes on the wide green pads of those be-spined plants.  The creek in Crossfire Canyon has gone thin and muddy, then, in places, flaky or sandy and dry-stoned.  The snowmelt on the Abajos to the north seemed to have skipped its trip south to the San Juan River via Crossfire Canyon and cascaded straight up into the air.  The beavers remain the water barons in the canyon, gathering together the springs at their canyon bottom outlets with mud and vegetable dams to hold constant the water levels of their modest ponds.  The last time I entered the canyon, about 30 black Angus cows and calves were strung out along the beaverworks, which provides the only significant, native water for miles.

Unlike the melt-off from the Blues, WIZ’s Runoff has been pretty impressive.  But like all runoffs, it has tapered off. The last poems have posted and deliberations to choose which of the 31 eligible entries might win the Spring Poetry Runoff’s Most Popular Poem Award and the Admin Award are about to begin.  Voting for the Most Popular Poem will be conducted by public poll beginning Monday, May 28 or Tuesday, May 29.  Poets, please come back and vote, and invite your friends and family members to come vote, too.  Winners of both awards will be announced on or around .

Thank you so much, writers, for participating so well.  Poets, readers, and commenters who have already put so much time into the Runoff—prepare yourselves to vote, starting next week.  Each voter will be able to vote for his or her three favorite poems!  Please, participants–enter three choices for your favorite poems.  It’s more sporting than just voting for your single favorite poem, and it provides other poets feedback for their hard-wrought words.

Again, good work, participants, and thank you, readers, for sticking with us and reading all the entries.  There were many delightful surprises in this year’s offerings–a lot of poetry I’ve been proud WIZ hosted.  Remember: Choices for this year’s prizes are Fire in the Pasture, an anthology of contemporary Mormon poetry, edited by Peculiar Pages, and the novel The Scholar of Moab, by Steven L. Peck and published by Torrey House Press.  Which, by the way, opened up to accept submissions on April 25.

It’s been a vibrant spring so far, thanks to all your flowers of speech. (Does anybody besides me remember that phrase, “flowers of speech”?)

Rainbow in April by Michael Lee Johnson

April again,
the wind
falls in love with itself
skipping across asphalt
and concrete bare
with the breaking weather.
A rainbow
is half arched,
broken off deep
into the aorta
of the sky.
It hangs
from elastic
rubber bands
of mixed colors
dipped in God’s
by the fingertips
of Michelangelo.
April again,
the wind steps high.

Michael Lee Johnson is a poet, freelance writer and small business owner from Itasca, Illinois. He is heavily influenced by Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, and Allen Ginsberg. He has recently published an illustrated poetry chapbook, From Which Place the Morning Rises, and a new photo version of The Lost American: from Exile to Freedom, both available here. He has written several other chapbooks, and has been published in over 25 countries. He is also the editor/publisher of five poetry sites, all open for submission.

*Competition entry*

End of the Drought by Sandra Skouson

Rain comes to the man in the field, steady
rain that soaks his shirt.  He makes himself
alone a few paces from his tractor, takes
off his hat, lifts his face to the clouds.
The woman runs from the house to drag
clothes off the line, but having done it
she stands outside the back door, her arms
full of wilting sheets, and breathes again–full
deep breaths for the first time in ten years.

Children bind sticks together for a raft
to float in the gutter.  Laughing, they follow
it downhill to a small dam of sopping weeds
and silt, catch it and bring it back to sail again.
Their feet brown and wet, they come home,
bringing small rocks shining with new colors
to make a row on the window sill.

The desert drinks herself to returning life. Red
clay darkens, gleams, and softens.  Roads crack
and break away.  Washes widen.  The heart
of the mountain draws water to deep shale where
coolness pools and oozes toward the seeps.

Seeds, the wind has stirred with sand through
circles of time, soften and sprout.  The desert
blooms and rejoices against her own identity.

Our prayers are answered, blessings open
the pores of our skin. Our hair looses its
crispness.  Our shoulders loose their tension.
Roses bloom against the eastern wall.

Rain fills our rain gutters, swamps our sewer,
and floods the lower garden.  The house floats
heavily now on an underground river.  We feel
no movement, but we are forced to bale water
or abandon ship.  We live to a new pulse;
the sump pump throbs water out of the basement.
We carry books and boxes upstairs, pull up
the carpet, and set the beds on blocks.  Children
sleep wrapped in blankets on the living room floor.

One day the sun will burn again, the water drain,
the wind fill up with dust.  The desert will come
to her own.  Until that day, our house rides
the jubilee current.  We stay with it.


To read another of Sandra’s Spring Runoff entries and her bio, go here.

*Competition entry*

While Digging Out the Garden by Sarah Dunster

You, but not you.

The earth braces itself against
my first spade full—ground softened by
my salt—unearthing roots  like fingers
spread to sky, claiming a blessing
or, at least, an answer.

You are earth. You. But not
you—we never buried you, and
I never saw your face in death.

I’m alive, yet not alive.

I walk through shadowed valleys and
I find the Tree—not fruited, but felled;
a blackened trunk, with spring sprung up
in a hundred nubile branches—

Me. And you.

The garden must be dug. My young
plants wait on the sill, stretching leggy
stems to reach the light. I turn the
earth. What lies beneath? My spade-tip
scrapes the iron mantle, while I
hang on the wooden handle.


To read Sarah’s bio and other Spring Poetry Runoff entries, go here and here.

*Competition entry*