My ears are thick with them, the yellow jackets levitating out of this vole hole to hover through our scarecrows of gold banner and harebell. Murmuration is a word even without the starlings’ imprint above this leaf light. It is almost too beautiful to write: the birds I cannot see clustering at night beneath the Milky Way, river of light, their absence silence, and then the wasps I thought bees vibrating over the wet leaves, the pulpy flies, the destroying angels I’ve walked through. These wasps fly in and out beneath the metal sky into the dark cupboards of earth, thousands, while I plunge my arms through bees snout-deep in late blossom, everything and me until the first glittering frost alive.
[Beauty] compels awe, and awe Is well known for its capacity to silence. Louise Glück
I’ve been thinking about beauty and how these blue birds ahead of me keep throwing themselves off the aspen snags. Like a hinge, the mind already calling them ‘beautiful” and “sky,” though I don’t know really what beauty is or how to make it so in a poem about a gravel lane I keep writing. Leonard never sees the bluebirds, though he wants to, but, every day, I walk into them, little chips of sky I might touch. When Leonard was a boy, his mother taught him to sing a song about pockets and falling stars and he sings it to me now, when we are happiest. In just this hour, fall has towed in its clouds like blue barges. Beautiful. And I am remembering the earliest summer morning, not in this here, not in this now: tree swallows flushed above the sedge and a guttering of flickers. And now this perfect silhouette in the dirt I thought to photograph at my feet because there was light and there were wings and nothing to grieve, door nor earth.
I found this on a flowering weed in Castlewood Park on a day I was looking for birds. Butterfly? Moth? To be honest, I didn’t know. And then I learned that the butterfly has a bulb at the end of its antenna, unlike the moth and its feathered one, and a hooked tip called the “apiculus.” The name of this butterfly? Such beautiful names to wander through: Swallowtails and Hairstreaks, Elfins and Metalmarks and Gossamer-winged. Just the names begin to find a poem. This little guy is part of the Grass Skippers Family, perhaps a Least Skipper, weak in the wings, or an Orange Skipperling, its eggs orange-ringed and its larva rolling up in a single blade of grass. I don’t really care which butterfly it is: I woke up and couldn’t sleep and now a coyote has wandered down the suburban drainage ditch a block from our house to sing and I’ve been thinking about poetry and found this poem by Pavel Friedmann, who wrote this one day in 1942 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp beneath a white chestnut and gave it to me, tonight, and now me to you:
He was the last. Truly the last. Such yellowness was bitter and blinding Like the sun’s tear shattered on stone. That was his true colour. And how easily he climbed, and how high, Certainly, climbing, he wanted To kiss the last of my world.
I have been here for seven weeks, ‘Ghettoized’. Who loved me have found me, Daisies call to me, And the branches also of the white chestnut in the yard. But I haven’t seen a butterfly here. That last one was the last one. There are no butterflies, here, in the ghetto.
Have you ever held the shell of something in your hand for a long time and loved it and never known it until, one day, you learn the name of it, like Moon Snail?
Here it is. And here it will be, too:
I am thinking about the hand I found in Indiana, a mole’s hand, when I was somewhere near ten years old, back-walking from a bulldozed pond along a foot and cow path in an Indiana field my father owned. His weekend escape from medicine and the hospital rounds he’d leave us for in the Sunday afternoons of our returning. It was 1968, fifty-four years ago from where I sit now in my quiet Colorado study, a blue spruce at the window where chickadees fly, and where it brushes the eves in our February wind, and where I hold the shell of a moon snail I found in a sea drift a summer ago in Cape Cod with my love, as if it were time, salt-riped and smoothed, I cup in my hands.
January 22nd has come and gone and Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a Pandemic has been delayed by Covid and shipping slowdowns. Sad, but so trifling in comparison to lives continuing to be lost to this pandemic and to the fire devastation that Colorado experienced just weeks ago.
I’ve been promised that Flying Beneath the Dog Star will appear on the horizon in the next couple of weeks. I apologize for the delay to those of you who made early purchases. Once FBDS is officially published and shipped , it will also be available through, besides Finishing Line Press, amazon, good reads, barnes & noble etc etc.
I begin a series of local readings and workshops starting in early February. Most of these will be available to anyone by Zoom. I invite you to all. You can find announcements, zoom links (and more specific details as each event approaches) at https://kathrynwinograd.com/events/
If you’re interested, you can also find my most recently published poetry, articles and interviews at:
Three years ago, my daughter and son-in-law gave me a special Christmas gift: a new camera. Since that day, I’ve been haunting rivers, woods, and fields for birds in a new journey, one beautiful way to look up and see the world new. Now, thanks to Green Briar Review, I can share my first cover photo of a Heron in Winter.
I’ve been waiting for this. Right at the moment when we all went into lockdown at the start of the pandemic and my mother would begin a series of emergency room visits that led finally in just a few months to the hospice, my book, slow arrow: unearthing the frail children, came out. My mother never got to read it. It was one of the saddest times in my life. The book went on to win a bronze medal in essay for the independent publishers book award, a prize that put me next to lia purpura, who won the gold medal and is one of my favorite essayists. I was thankful to do this interview, which brought me back to my mother and those trips we made across teller county. I can still hear my mother, Ohio native of beautiful red and orange trees, complaining in fall: “What, another yellow leaf?” This is an interview about the journey of one book and the love for a mother.
I found this butterfly along Redtail Lake in the Rabbitbrush. It reminded me of a poem I wrote a long while ago on my own small family’s migration. Believe it or not, it won the 2011 Writers Digest Non-rhyming poetry competition, my thousand dollar poem … a poem I treasure, regardless.
At Monterey Aquarium, we watched mackerel school where light refracted the world over our heads— sky, people, that brooding mimetic moon—bent
impossibly over the silver minions, their shifting music we couldn’t hear, their long silent rhythm, form shifting into formlessness, the way you do now,
your face flushed with the boy’s mouth until I can barely touch you as I once did, my loneliness no longer allowed to break like water against the frail vessel of you.
There is no justification in this, as in the way starlings leave the long darkness of our fall, buoyed in the lifting wings of each other beneath the stars’ compass,
our yellow cottonwood speaking the language of wind between us and this leaving until their shadow that finally is the fall breaks over us. So long now, since I touched
the braille of your skin, the late moon keening her vowels through that early window. Human frailty, I think, loving that naming of you without the tongue, your body —
shadow light shadow —
already breaking across my hands into nothing that stays.