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At the Black Swamp Bird Observatory Banding Station

01 April, 2019: At the Black Swamp Bird Observatory Banding Station



by Nicole Robinson
Warblers squirm silent when caught in mist nets
then peck at the hands of the ornithologist
who says, “We shortchange the migration tale.”
He means we leave out the struggle:
lack of stop-over habitat, windmills, buildings,
jaws of a house-cat, and only a small percent of birds
arrive on breeding grounds. And what of our own
migrations? The boxes stacked by walls,
smell of cardboard and sweat, the emptied desk,
our bodies that remind us they’re our only home.
How lonely we are inside them sometimes.
How little we know of them— moments
we look in a mirror as if to study a stranger.
At the Black Swamp Bird Observatory among the leaf-out
of trees, that green, the marsh pressed
against Lake Erie, the ornithologist bands and releases
a blackpoll warbler to the clean back of morning.
It lifts the sky to join a winged stampede
on a journey toward its next temporary home
while we save what we can
of the marsh, of our own tired bodies. 

“At the Black Swamp Bird Observatory Banding Station” by Nicole Robinson, from Great River Review. 2017. Used by permission of the author.
Nicole Robinson’s poems have appeared in Connotation Press, The Louisville Review, The Fourth River and Tahoma Literary Review. She is a recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for poetry and is the writer-in-residence at Akron Children’s Hospital. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram.


Former United Stated Poet Laureate Robert Hass has said, “Poets mostly … listen and record what they are hearing or have just heard.” What are you hearing just now? Record it in a poem.


Vacation in Nashville, Music City
Sounds of all the dogs barking and running and playing
As we wrap up the day
Visiting dog parks
Trains and cars
Round out the city sounds

What cannot be heard
Is the spring blossoms and sunshine
That have driven out of doors
The people and dogs of Nashville to greet us
And say, Welcome!
4/2/2019 5:12:26 PM

Conscience tells me to stop
It's time for bed
Curiosity tells me to keep going
I'll sleep when I'm dead

Still hearing reruns of today
While watching reruns of Carson
4/1/2019 10:06:22 PM

Penny Christian Knight
At first I focus on what I hear inside,
Then, back to the loud, continuous, usually all-the-same news.
Neither are peaceful, joyful, or satisfying.
The noise inside my ears gets all the attention,
while the news tries to do the same.
The news is loud and fast enough to win out.
It drowns out finally the tinnitus,
which is more unnerving.
4/1/2019 8:46:44 PM

Daune Calovini

A high pitched buzz
The song of my inside head
One note, sustained
The force focused between my eyebrows

A low pitched drone
Whir of a fan inside the box that demands my attention
It requires action, absorbing all energy

Sapped by sound
4/1/2019 3:17:39 PM

Cindy Sawyers
I liked it. very interesting, the comparison. Deep.
4/1/2019 12:08:18 PM

Tammy L Currier
The cusp of noon

Against a broad pale blue sky
a lone seagull wheels
emitting a "long call"
over I know not what

Below, cars and trucks rush pell mell
hurtling towards Dead Man's curve
the engine breaking begins
the speed bumps to sound

Inside, my stomach protests
the curves of my digestive system to resonate
the distress of planned obsolescence
What's a consumer to do?
4/1/2019 12:07:49 PM

Comparing our human experiences with birds' migrations helps to better appreciate our lives and theirs.
4/1/2019 11:03:04 AM

READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.