Response to We Write Poems # 59

22 Jun

Hello to all. It is a lovely rainy morning in dry, dry Texas. Here is my response to the We Write Poems‘ prompt that asks us to: Describe some part of your environment; be generous in detail (this is called “making it real”), bringing the reader right over your shoulder for this poem. Don’t worry about being simple, about not making the scene dramatic. Give yourself permission to observe in raw direct detail, observe then describe. You know, even a “still life” actually moves! Maybe something of your relationship as observer, then participant, will grant more understanding and meaning for you (that’s also fine to include, but please, simplicity this week). Use as many of your senses as seems right for you.

Early Morning

and across the wall of windows
to my left, a cardinal flashes red
before threading himself into
an overgrown bush; a flight
of grackles lands on the lawn
pecking through the drought dry
grass, until the roar of a garbage truck
startles them back into the air.

Later, two grackles return to dance.
One points its beak skyward
stretching its throat while the other
dips and bobs, an offering
held in its beak. They leap at each
other in a tussle of feathers before
flying off, leaving me
my coffee, my pen, my paper.

Sort of process notes, because I almost didn’t come to this party: When I read the prompt I thought: Lovely. I like describing the environment. But when I looked around me and the environment that surrounds where I write, I was overwhelmed by how much there is. I couldn’t find a start point. Then, I looked out the window, one of my favourite things to do, and what I wrote the poem about is what happened at that moment

To my regulars, head over to We Write Poems to read a few more poems from this prompt. I know I don’t need to tell any of the We Write Poemers to do that!

See you tomorrow for my thoughts on poetic inversions; Friday for this week’s roundup of places to find prompts; and Tuesday for another open prompt.


Posted by on 22/06/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , , ,

33 responses to “Response to We Write Poems # 59

  1. Donald Harbour

    22/06/2011 at 11:39 am

    Although the ornithology manual says we have grackles year round in Arkansas I beg to differ. We see a lot of crows but few grackles, a bird I love to amuse me. My wife thinks I’m crazy because I talk to the crows and grackles however I have always felt a kinship with these magnificent intelligent birds. We saw many of then in Arizona and Texas when I lived in Dallas. I enjoyed your poem because you focused on a pivotal point of early morning, birds browsing for a meal and not just any bird but the ubiquitous grackle. In many ways your description is a view of human activity, the Starbucks crowd. Thanks for the joy.

    • margo roby

      22/06/2011 at 11:54 am

      My pleasure, Don. And how gorgeous: the Starbucks crowd. So I shall think whenever I see them now. I miss the grackles when we return to our ten month home in Atlanta, and love returning to them each summer, in Texas. I love watching them walking from yard to yard. They have such personality. Am glad to find another grackle enthusiast.

  2. wordsandthoughtspjs

    22/06/2011 at 12:42 pm

    Margo, I love your description of your writing area. From where I sit and write there are two double windows looking out on our garden. So, your area has some similarities to mine. I don’t know the difference between grackles or crows. I am still having trouble identifying some little round bellied, charcoal grey birds, that visit every morning to eat sunflower seeds. I see them when I get up round 6 am. I have described them to my husband. (He is never up that early 🙂 ) He said that maybe they are seasonal. Nice write.


  3. margo roby

    22/06/2011 at 1:03 pm

    Hmmm, I am intrigued by your description of the birds, Pamela. Small and all over charcoal grey. I may be hauling out my bird book. Grackles have lovely long tails like an almost closed fan and are far friendlier than crows, but they do have similar colouring. Although, I think I have seen a purple sheen to some of the grackles’ feathers. I love having my windows. Ours are three double windows and I spend a lot of time looking out of them [as I apparently also did in sixth grade according to a report card :)]. If I find the bird, I’ll let you know. I know you are in Mexico, but maybe if I look at southwestern states…

    This has been such fun to read everyone’s poems on their spaces.


    • wordsandthoughtspjs

      22/06/2011 at 1:21 pm

      If you do find out, Margo. Please let me know.

      • margo roby

        22/06/2011 at 1:39 pm

        I am giving you homework, Pamela. I have been through my birds of north america and found lots of small, round bellied birds, several with charcoal grey heads and backs, but not bellies. Will you observe a couple of things for me next time you see them? Are they round headed or crested? Short straight unremarkable beaks? And are they one solid colour all the way around, no differentiation? And I am assuming by your use of charcoal that they are quite dark. Don’t ask why I have a need to identify it. Clearly I am avoiding something.

  4. Madeleine Begun Kane

    22/06/2011 at 2:58 pm

    Nice! I wish I had your knack for description!

    • margo roby

      22/06/2011 at 4:13 pm

      Thank you, Madeleine — years of practice and a mentor!


  5. brenda w

    22/06/2011 at 3:43 pm

    Margo, Thank you for bringing a cardinal into my world this morning. We have grackles here, but not cardinals. This morning we drove up to a wetlands preserve and watched the pelicans. They are gathered together there in this wet wet Montana spring. Your window is a lovely place, thanks for allowing us to visit vicariously through your words.

  6. margo roby

    22/06/2011 at 4:17 pm

    I do love cardinals, Brenda. I have seen more this year than any other, perhaps seeking shade from the dryness and heat. And pelicans are such a treat to watch. None in Texas or Atlanta, but when I go to California next week I shall see some in Santa Cruz when I visit my brother. Must remember to write some notes about them!
    PS We’ll take some of your rain.

  7. Tilly Bud

    22/06/2011 at 4:19 pm

    Lovely description of life going on around you as you write.

  8. ladynimue

    22/06/2011 at 5:25 pm

    I wish I had such awesome surrounding to sit .. though i doubt i can write in such setting .. Mine is in office most time sitting on my desk .. and if at home , it will be doing some random thing and thinking of words in my head.. later i will sit and type on laptop ..

    • margo roby

      22/06/2011 at 6:09 pm

      Lady N, mine used to be in an office. Now, I am retired I have windows to look out of — which can be dangerous if I forget to write what I see.

  9. Joseph Harker

    22/06/2011 at 5:47 pm

    The simple beauties tend to be the best ones. And I’ve been at a loss with the prompt, so you’ve given me some notions of how to proceed… thank you!

  10. margo roby

    22/06/2011 at 6:11 pm

    You are welcome, Joseph. I tell you, if that cardinal had not flashed by to be followed by the grackles, I probably would have had to duck the prompt this week. I look forward to what you come up with.


  11. Jeanne Aguilar

    22/06/2011 at 6:21 pm

    Love this poem…perfect slice of life! I really enjoyed following along the birds with you and then poof they left you…lively and fun!

    • margo roby

      22/06/2011 at 6:31 pm

      Thank you, Jeanne! I’m in my seat now watching two young cardinals. I do love my view!


  12. neil reid

    23/06/2011 at 2:42 am

    Margo, read Brenda’s poem just prior to yours, and seems you guys might be in cahoots! Well feathered observations, both. I think you found a fond focal point. I rather like this poem too; the simplicity serves it well.

    If you’ll pardon, I’m going to break a rule (not really a criticism, but well… ) and ask what you might think about a “reductionist” change, most notably with that last phrase in the poem, to be… “my coffee, my pen, my paper.” Maybe even omitting the “with” in the line before? “Leaving me,”

    Too subtle (or too silly)? (Or just me?) But I think it makes a subtle shift in tone, or sense, almost as if changing point-of-view to having you then becoming the shared “object” of observation. As I said, pardon please. Yet it just came to me as a strong sense of how the poem might alternately express itself.

    Actually I often like to omit what I call “minor connective tissue” or words, the way we commonly speak, and in so doing invite the reader to shift just slightly off from their usual expectations, maybe see differently. (Or again, I’ve been sometimes criticized for taking liberties with the English language!) (I do.) 🙂

    And on this theme (breaking the rules) I’ve got a response to your cinquain prompt (written and forgot, and found again), and you know – I don’t do poem “forms”! Along with my own version of your poem mantras that went with that post. (Not posted yet, but I’ll let you know… )

    Thanks for coming to the party! You bring a lot with you to appreciate!

  13. margo roby

    23/06/2011 at 9:36 am

    Neil — never hesitate! I love receiving ideas to chew over. Trying different things with a poem, the revision, is one of my favourite parts of the process. And if you don’t present me with what your brain sparks I might never see a possibility! I used two exclamation points in the preceding, so I mean it.

    I like the omitting of “and” and even more the “with,” the shift, as you say. Not silly, not just you [or yes, you, because I didn’t see it, but that’s what makes it an insight: it’s you], and that kind of subtle can make a poem.

    You’re a writer. I hope you take liberties with the language. That’s what all good writers do and they certainly break the rules [once they know them :)].

    And, I have it in writing that you have a cinquain, so don’t think I will forget.

    I’m not a party girl but I like the parties you hold. I’ll always be there even if the muse fails!

    margo [now tell me: why do people put ~ in front of their names and am I committing something terrible by not signing ~margo?]

    PS I have been told that Google is displeased if we edit and republish posts [they can even decide to ignore blogs apparently. Interesting, no?], but I want you to see how the poem reads now so have made the changes. If I’m not habitual maybe they’ll overlook.

  14. Laurie Kolp

    23/06/2011 at 9:45 am

    Hey, Margo— I’m enjoying the rain down in Southeast Texas, and my cardinals are too! Your colorful piece had me right beside you.

    • margo roby

      23/06/2011 at 10:00 am

      Wait. Do I know where you live, Laurie? I tend to miss things. I’m in San Antonio [our summer home]. Where in Southeast Texas are you? No wonder you feel like you are beside me!


  15. vivinfrance

    23/06/2011 at 4:43 pm

    MrMargo, your observational poem is captivating. As is the discussion about addition/omission of ands and articles, the very same discussion we had this afternoon: I held my corner that it’s a matter of context, style and rhythm whether they’re in or out, rather than strict syntax, but I don’t think I convinced anyone!

  16. vivinfrance

    23/06/2011 at 4:45 pm

    I don’t know where that Mister came from: it wasn’t me, miss, honest! I wish we could correct our over-hasty comments.

    • margo roby

      23/06/2011 at 5:39 pm

      I am laughing right out loud, Viv. I was wondering if there was some code to the Mr when I spotted your follow-on comment. I catch my computer often adding things when I know I didn’t touch the keyboard…

      Thank you for the comment on my poem. My husband put up a feeder yesterday which the cardinals are aware of but ignoring and the grackles are paying no attention to.

      You should have had us with you, Viv. Of course context, rhythm and style have to come into it. So there!

  17. 1sojournal

    23/06/2011 at 7:08 pm

    For the three years I have been here, I seem to be drawn to a different bird for the summer season. Last year was filled with cardinals, the year before, red and yellow finches, and this year is definitely the summer of pelicans. I like what you found outside your window. I stayed very close to my desk instead. But, certainly enjoyed the easy movement you found both at your window and your choice of words. Like this one very much, Margo.


  18. margo roby

    23/06/2011 at 10:14 pm

    I am torn between the cardinals and their bright red and olive [female], their friendliness — they are teenagers, i think — and the grackles with which I am quite in love, as they fly in together and stroll around the lawn trailing their fan tails. Rumour has it we have finches but I have yet to see them. Hot summer might be the wrong time.
    I like writing about what I see around me more and more as I learn to look. Thank you, Elizabeth.


  19. pmwanken

    23/06/2011 at 11:56 pm

    After our conversation the other night and your description of We Write Poems and the fun prompting process, I decided to jump in. Thanks for the inspiration then–and through this poem.

  20. Mr. Walker

    24/06/2011 at 2:03 am

    Margo, I enjoyed your description of the birds, and then how it ended with you, looking out, and then focused in on yourself at the end. It also brought to mind how distracted we can be – even how we’ll look for things to distract ourselves instead of writing.


    • Margo Roby

      24/06/2011 at 9:12 am

      Windows are always a danger for me, Richard. And, I know what you mean by distracting ourselves deliberately. It’s an odd thing and I wonder what part of the process the brain thinks this serves. I am certainly guilty of it.

      I hope you are enjoying your summer. This is my first summer not as a teacher and it feels a little odd — no demarcation point for vacation.


  21. Margo Roby

    24/06/2011 at 9:08 am

    Paula: I was hoping you would wander over. I’ve already left a comment on the poem. It will be good to see you at We Write Poems and Wordles!


  22. Renee Espriu

    25/06/2011 at 12:10 pm

    This is a beautiful piece and your imagery and description of the grackles are wondefully done. Look forward to more poems from you, Margo. Thanks!

    • margo roby

      25/06/2011 at 12:24 pm

      Thank you, Renee. I appreciate your comment! I look forward to seeing you again.



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