Our new beginning is here,
But we must harness the yoke
Pull the cart
Over rock and rut.
The cart is full of gloomy sins and
Heaped to overflowing–crime, corruption and cronies—
Covering goodness, grace, and the coming generations.
We pull it all.
Our yoke is a wooden cross with
Braces and straps that cut skin and press bones
My strength is lamb-like, meek and easily overcome,
My footing only becomes firm when I feel my yokefellows
Our steps echoing yes-no; yes-no.
Canaries in a Coal Mine
Replaced by electronic noise, the yellow birds were phased out,
Like the pit ponies who dragged the coal from the Earth’s gut
A sentinel species, more sensitive to the toxins lurking in the dark—
Colorless, odorless–death was their talent
A dose of oxygen on the inhale and another on the exhale
The canary can soar to altitudes that sicken the brutish
The companioning birdsong, now a cliché
Its absence, a warning
A double dose of air and a double dose of poison
When the bird keels, we follow.
Wilsons Warblers, small, yellow migrants
Violet-green Swallows, near the Rio Grande–
A mass mortality event
Flycatchers of three species, a Vesper Sparrow, Townsend’s Warbler.
Some huddled, some alone
In an arroyo, a rock cavity, dazed in a vacant lot
Native birds, not stressed by fleeing have fat reserves
Not so for those escaping the fires
No knowledge of harbor, starvation-addled, songless—
The travelers fall, like molted Icarus, to the frozen desert floor.
© 2021 Shelly Cook All Rights Reserved
Shelly Cook is a retired English teacher living in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she reads, writes, and cares for her three dogs—Fred, Ginger, and Max. She and her husband Mike enjoy travel and hiking.