Tuesday 5 May 2020

2 Poems by Buff Whitman-Bradley

Neighborhood poet

All alone atop a light pole

Above the busy thoroughfare

A smokey gray pigeon is doing its best

To strike an eagle pose

Meaning to convince itself

I suppose

And those of us speeding by below

That it is no mere plebian scavenger

But a knight of the air

A fierce and intrepid raptor

Of aristocratc lineage

Standing guard over the wide world

As evening comes on.

Nice try.

And when we were young

Didn’t many of us do something

Very similar

Emulating the bearing

And the manner of speech

The style and the attitudes

Of celebrated ones

Hoping by some sort of sympathetic magic

I suppose

To become as brilliant and profound

As acclaimed and admired

As our idols?

I know I did.

I did my best to imitate the way

Certain revered poets

Famously carried on,

Which involved a good deal

Of tumultuous behavior,

While I maintained a fervent belief

In my own talent

And waited with confident anticipation

For the heavens to rain greatness

Down upon me

And deathless verse

To begin erupting from my pen.

Didn’t happen.

And now I am seventy-five,

Long past my days of drama and heat,

An enthusiastic observer

Of local comings and goings,

A happy collecter of bits of daily news

From up and down the block,

Alert for little flickers of wild vitality

In the commonplace and everyday,

A neighborhood poet,

Content among the pigeons.

Heron and turtle

The heron walks ever so daintily

Along the half-submerged fallen tree

Being careful not to intrude

Upon the several turtles

Sunning themselves thereon.

But perhaps from being overly cautious

The bird makes a misstep

And bumps one of the lazing amphibians

Off the waterlogged trunk

And into the drink.

Realizing at once the consequence

Of its errant footfall

The heron launches itself up and away

Into the azure afternoon

Far from the opprobrium

Of the dislodged snapper,

While the turtle so rudely evicted

Hauls itself up out of the cold pond

Back to its spot in the sunlight

Sighing and muttering about the travails

A turtle’s life entails

But so very happy to be warm again.

Lakeside afternoon

Standing near the tip of the branch

Extending several feet out from its nest

In the dead treetop

The juvenile osprey is in a panic

Crying out urgently and ceaselessly

From its uncertain perch

High above the lake,

Will somebody please do something!

But no parent osprey appears

To offer direction or advice

Or even an encouraging word or two

About this monumental and transformative moment

When a young bird will step into thin air

For the first time

And must master aerodynamics

In a matter of only a few seconds

Before it plunges head first

Into the dark green waters below.

The frantic young osprey does not realize

That this absence of a backup crew

Is the ancient wild’s way of saying

You can do this on your own now, little sister,

No need for further assistance.

But after more long minutes of plaintive pleading

An instant arrives

As it does in all our lives

When there is nothing else to do

But to obey the primeval instructions encoded within

Step lightly off the spindly branch

Into the invisible embrace of sky

And just fly.


Buff Whitman-Bradley’s poetry has been widely published in print and online journals.  His latest book is “Crows with Bad Writing.”  His podcast, “Poems for the Third Act” (thirdactpoems.podbean.com) features his poems reflecting on aging, memory, and mortality.  He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.

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