Wood ducks dabble in the pond
and fly to some other waterway
without a cat or dog or someone
at the window, who moves
in threatening ways.
I point a telephoto lens,
no gun, but they’re gone.
Lotus pads should be rising
from the black water,
straightening their curled leaves
flat on the surface— first signs
of pink blossoms for June.
Nothing. Last year, pads and blooms
turned brown in patches,
warned of the end of what has been
an annual delight. An invasive species
departed? Do I let it go and wait,
see what evolves? Herons might discover
a better view, bluegill and catfish
easier to catch.
Last night, an ambulance took
my neighbor. She can’t stand
on her feet. Not yet sixty, legally blind,
husband depressed though he’s still
witnessing for Jehovah.
Oak and beech leafing out, dogwood
in full bloom. Lilacs and mowed grass
scent air too still this morning,
as if holding its breath for bad news.
An hour’s travel to a friend to meet
her new puppy. I tell myself, Drive on.
They flew in flocks three hundred miles long,
a mile wide, darkening the sky for hours,
eclipsing the sun. Over three billion
Passenger Pigeons together. Audubon said
they passed for three days. So many, they
perched on each other’s backs. Trees
were shaken by a living wind.
Commercial hunters netted and shot them,
easy meat for servants and slaves, used as feed
to fatten hogs. Hunted to extinction, habitat
of chestnuts and oak acorns deforested.
One man bragged he’d killed a million. So
many. That value: a million dollars today.
Without limits, dumb as dodos we take all.
Fossils stretch back to the Pleistocene.
As today, conservationists ignored.
1914, the last pigeon, named Martha,
died at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Larger than a mourning dove, dusky blue, rose-
breasted, or wine red. So many. It seemed
they would be here forever— prolific,
Step from bright sunshine of the gravel drive
into the deep shade of oaks: red, white, southern,
and sweet gum, hickory, beech, pine. Trees
grow and die, fall into each other, sustain
beetles, spiders, and wild mushrooms.
Understory of wild azalea, fiddlehead ferns,
vetch, and fungi thrust up from the thick
and spongy leaf mat. Walk slowly. Stop often.
Don’t jog or count your steps. Turn off
your phone, iPod, and to-do list.
Every view tells more than one story.
Large stumps sprout trees. They tell when
the land was last clear-cut. Note where
the terrain dips and rises, where it floods
and dries again. See the tracks of those
who’ve passed this way— raccoon, deer,
squirrels, martins. Flocks of grackles.
Indian pipes, ghostlike in their white
translucency, poke up in an open patch
of ground, and bright orange chanterelles
grow along a shady bank. On dead trees,
still standing, see where pileated, downy,
and hairy woodpeckers have drilled.
Listen. You might hear them now between
the calls of two hawks in conversation. Move
slowly. The flash of pale fur is a white-tailed
deer, tail up as it flees. Stop. Inhale this mix
of fragrances unique to this place and season.
The architecture of these shafts of light
will never be the same. Nor you.
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, writing coach and seminar leader. Author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Perigee/ Penguin/ Putnam), her work has appeared in Cider Press Review, Rattle, Off the Coast, Kestrel, Permafrost, Slipstream, American Journal of Nursing, The MacGuffin, Writer’s Digest, Emerge Literary Journal, the minnesota review, Personal Journaling, and Playgirl. She ran away from the hurricanes of South Florida to be surprised by the earthquakes and tornadoes of rural central Virginia, where she writes poetry and does fabric and paper art. www.JoanMazza.com