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

Debra Bruce

About Place Journal, Volume II Issue I

A Mother Bird’s Calculation
She picks the oak in early spring,
and if she times it perfectly–
while newborn caterpillars meet
each leaf just as it’s opening,
not breaking it, but slipping in
to feast on luscious lime-green skin–
the mother bird will have her quota
of moist, tumescent caterpillars
to feed her teeming nest.
But the oak must save its canopy,
its roots perturbing snowless land.
To shelter its reserves of green
it unfurls unexpectedly and lets
its bitter tannin end the caterpillar plan.
Who would blame it? But now the chicks:
mouths wide open as their mother returns.
What will they eat? She jabs and flits
for bugs among some detritus
of caterpillars dried to buds
who didn’t shed a single skin.
I wish I didn’t know all this.
The oak tree stands there, glorious.
Debra Bruce’s latest book of poetry, Survivors’ Picnic, was published in 2012 by Word Press (Word Tech Editions). She has published widely in journals, including The Atlantic, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and others. New poems are forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review and String Poet. Website:



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