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Friday, July 03, 2020


by Buff Whitman-Bradley

With the first wail of the siren
A seismic gasp
Shudders up and down the streets
Of our little town
Here at the base of the forested mountain
Where all the trees
Are named kindling,
Where all the trees are named tinder,
Where all the trees
Are named fire.
So in the midst of a rampaging pandemic
We must worry now
About this too,
That an errant spark
From an ill-maintained power line
Will ignite a rampaging conflagration
Leaving devastation and death
In its wake.

Access is closed to many of the trails
In the watershed
Until the high winds die down
And temperatures drop.
Not long ago
Access was closed
Due to the coronavirus.
Too many people in the woods?
What a thought!
When we could enter again
A few weeks ago
We headed to a favorite spot
On a wooded lakeside trail
Where we could espy an osprey nest
At the very top of a dead Douglas fir
And see if last year’s inhabitants
Had returned during our pandemical hiatus.
And when we found that the pair
Was back home
Our viral gloom briefly lifted
And our spirits did a little jig or two.

The osprey couple will soon be caring
For hatchlings
Who will raise a right old ruckus
Every waking moment
Demanding food from mom and dad
Until one day
Obeying a mysterious call,
An ancient hearkening,
They will perch on the very edge of the nest
Or on the diving board limb
Extending several feet out
Above the water
And after a great deal of fussing
After a great deal of high-pitched pleading
For further instructions,
They will surrender their anxiety
To the primeval urge
And step off into air.

The winds have died down,
There have been no more sirens,
But the red flag will remain hoisted
Until tonight at 10 PM—
And how many more times this summer and fall
Will the scarlet banner snap in the wind
Before the rains return?
The headlines say that COVID 19
Has killed half a million people worldwide
And is showing no signs
Of abating.
We are all exhausted and demoralized
By the constant threat of plague and inferno
But we manage to muster up a little hope
When we picture those young osprey
Dropping straight down toward the water
Then in a transformative instant
Finding their wings and flaring upwards
Into the shimmering day.

Buff Whitman-Bradley's poems have appeared in many print and online journals. His most recent books are To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World and Cancer Cantata. With his wife Cynthia, he produced the award-winning documentary film Outside In and, with the MIRC film collective, made the film Por Que Venimos. His interviews with soldiers refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan were made into the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He lives in northern California. He podcasts at: .