The Yoking

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
Glowing ambitions
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
Pressing forward.

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.

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