'Their breasts and backs as dark as low bruised banks of cloud'
I can identify most of the birds that live in my part of Nebraska, but I can't tell one warbler from the next. But Kevin Cole, in his new book, Late Summer Plums, from Scurfpea Publishing, has identified a warbler for us. The archives of this column, at www.americanlifeinpoetry.org, has another of Cole's poems, about watching a deer cross the Missouri. Kevin Cole lives in South Dakota.
by Kevin Cole
The Audubon warblers keep the time of their coming,
Arriving on stillness of a storm,
Their breast and backs as dark as low bruised banks of cloud,
Rumps and throats as yellow as blooms of buckwheat.
They throng this evening in the newly-leaved
Tender-tipped canopies nervously weaving
Through the catkins like frantic prophets
Bearing some divine prophecy of the coming spring.
I wait, hoping for nothing too grave:
News of ruinous lands, of cutting and swarming locusts,
Of withering vines and empty granaries,
Of fasting, weeping, and rending of garments.
No, I wait for lighter fare:
Perhaps a promise that the green heron will nest
On the west end of the slough and that the ironweed
And wood lily will once again together bloom.
This would be an ample prophecy for another year—
This and a promise to keep the time of their coming.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2016 by Kevin L Cole, 'Audubon Warblers', from Late Summer Plums, (Scurfpea Publishing, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Kevin L Cole and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2018 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-06.