Wendy Barker


This fall I realized the golden-fronted
          woodpeckers, mockingbirds, whippoorwills, and owls
no longer clustered around the house,
          haven't seen them in over a year, all gone north or south,
away from the construction, "development"
          surrounding us. But still the cardinals, houe finches, and,
at times, chickadees at the feeders in
          our back yard. All through the day, my husband and I will
look out, check to see who's pecking at our
          safflower seeds or flickering in branches of the oaks. This
past summer I'd been rading that penguin
          colonies in the Antarctic had collapsed and bird numbers
in the Mojave Desert had plummeted. "Never
          again would bird song be the same," said Frost, though
he was talking about a living woman whose
          voice he loved. How I miss the nighly coo of those owls,
trills of the whippoorwill as my husband and
          I drift to sleep. We spent July in Panama's rainforests,
surrounded by flutterings, warblings of kiskadees,
          palm tanagers, masked tityras, flycatchers, and throngs
of red-lored parrots. Hummingbirds, hundreds
          swarming the blossoms like bees outside our cabin. So
coming home felt drab. But this morning in
          our own house, my husband calls to me in his even tone,
lower than any birds', yet one I can always
          lean on. And suddenly, beyond our window, a lesser
goldfinch and his mate, just like the ones
          we'd seen in Panama. Glints, sparks, flashes of yellow.



Wendy Barker’s seventh collection of poems is Gloss (Saint Julian Press, 2020). Her sixth collection, One Blackbird at a Time, received the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry (BkMk Press, 2015), and her fifth chapbook is Shimmer (Glass Lyre Press, 2019). Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies as well as The Best American Poetry 2013. She is the recipient of NEA and Rockefeller fellowships among other awards, and she teaches at the University of Texas at San Antonio.