Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Birdcalls, Spring 1950

In mid-May we move upstairs.

The living quarters expand.

My mother opens the windows

letting the spring breeze blow

musty air away. The crosswind lifts

the curtains in sheer joy before

Mama can insert the screens.

the air smells of snow soaked earth,

and is sparkled with birdsongs.

Mama listens. She knows them all,

Killdeer, Robin, Lark, and Finch.


She layers my bed with hefty quilts.

I do not complain, remembering

their cozy warmth when nights still smell

of lingering snow, blown across the fields

from the deep forbidding woods,

where coyotes and even bear may lurk,

and where I fear to go. Across the bed,

I lay looking through that window,

dreaming of summer days ahead.


Outside, my father directs the farmer

hired to plow our garden, though

much leveling must still be done

before the first planting, two weeks

hence, timed with cycles of the moon.


My room seems to open out.

The prairie grass below spreads

its golden reach to the leafless gray

of the still wintry woods,

while in our yard, the timid lilac

dreams of blooms yet to come.

My window, still open, lets in the sounds

of hatchling insects, and one bird’s serenade.

It is a voice I have never heard,

soft, mellow and melancholy.

Entranced, I whistle the tones

to remember, so I may learn its name.


Sunday is devoted to an excursion

in the woods to see the creek, a

place I have never seen. The brook

curls around a valley and a yellow house.

Whip-poor-will Haven is written

over the door, occupants unknown.

Holding my little sister’s hand,

Mama whistles the song of a bird,

She says it is the Whip-poor-will’s call.

It is my bird, the one that called to me

the night before. I feel a chill, knowing

I will remember this day forever.



Writing is the Copyright © of Ruth Zachary. Image from F. Babcock's Collection, Photographer Unknown.

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