Please help the Black Earth Institute continue to make art and grow community so needed for our time. Donate now »

a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Diane Stone

Steller’s Jay

Humility’s not his strong suit,
nor subtlety.
He’s a circus unto himself:
high-stepping leader of the band,
popcorn barker, clown,
a dandy in blue lamé.
What’s missing among his talents
is a song to warble from treetops
in his own rendition of love.
He can’t, alas;
he’s a shrieker not a crooner.
The thrush can deliver
one thousand heart-breaking tunes;
and the jay? just a few squawks,
a yodel or two. Off-key.
It doesn’t seem fair.
Yet he makes the most of his world,
which is more than the rest of us can say.
He’s expert at mobbing owls,
mimics red-tail hawks;
he’s a town crier for the bird world,
raising alarms when danger’s afoot—
choice parent, faithful mate,
inquisitive to a fault.
Singing isn’t everything.
Our garden seems incomplete
until he swoops to a fence post,
impatient for corn.
All wings and mouth,
he drops from heaven
like a chunk of sky.
There’s sunshine on his wings,
glitter in his eyes—such
a torch of blue feathers.

A New Phoenix

Not impossible, but unlikely,

to find again in Southern hardwoods

the blue-black feathers, glistening

wings gliding in slow, sure leisure,

sturdy ivory bills double-knocking

on trunks, or hear the odd kent-kent

as the birds swoop from trunk to trunk.

Not impossible but unlikely:

too late, perhaps, for hope.


At dinner a man describes the final

clearcut of old-growth that doomed

these birds. One survivor, he says,

a female, lived on among the stumps

for two years. Some days when he scouts

the woods, listening, waiting,

he thinks he hears the ancient nasal call,

imagines the loose sail of wings,

the glowing beak, and red flashing crest.

If only the fist of his belief might open

wide to a miracle of resurrection.


The problem with belief, I say,

is the hard plank of facts: the occasion

of reality forcing us to weigh human guilt,

the greed that preens in our wants.


In time he circles back to hope—maybe,

he says, the great and beautiful bird might,

somehow, rise from its ashes of extinction.

Those Last Twenty Acres

Somehow a bear survives

in this remnant lowland forest—

he’s the stuff of local legends,

scrounging enough blackberries

and road trash to sustain him

in his leafy cell imprisoned by suburbia.

Mothers spot him when apples ripen

or summer thirst drives him

to the damp miracle

of evening sprinklers.

They scream as his hairy shoulders

slope back into the cage of those last twenty acres.


A few neighbors want to save him—

as if by carting him off to the mountains

they might justify the lush lives

of our neat backyards,

the plastic forts and trampolines,

the forests we’ve forsaken.

Imagine his panic,

frantic paws scrambling from speeding cars,

the startling brightness of headlights.

Poor brute, with shaggy, matted fur

and weeping sores, reduced to the indignity

of barking dogs and children’s rocks.


Commuters often spot him

creeping along the edge of hemlocks

or standing upright, nose in the air,

sniffing a sweet breeze

from memory’s primeval forest.


Diane Stone, a former technical writer-editor, lives on Whidbey Island north of Seattle. Her work has been published in Crosswinds Poetry Journal, The Comstock Review, The Main Street Rag, Minerva Rising, Chautaqua, and elsewhere. A book of poetry, Small Favors (Kelsay Books), was published in 2021.

©2024 Black Earth Institute. All rights reserved.  |  ISSN# 2327-784X  |  Site Admin