Hiking with Nina

Three of us walking
Along the marshland trail
Grandma, Grandpa, toddler Nina,
Stopping every 20 feet or so
To investigate a new find –
A dead and desiccated millipede,
A rotting oak gall,
A crayfish gullicating
Through the trailside grasses
Looking for the creek it misplaced,
A whole field
Of brown and brittle Fuller’s teasels
One of which we cut for Nina
For whom it is important
To hold the world in hand.
When we come across a clump
Of several snow berry shrubs,
Leafless stems with clusters
Of small star-white orbs
On the ends of their branches,
We stop of course
To engage in a bit of harvesting
And find that when we squash those berries
They squirt a particularly satisfying white goo
That obliges us to cry out
“Mashed potatoes!” with each squeeze.
“Mashed potatoes!” Nina shouts
Again and again for the next few minutes
Picking and squashing, picking and squishing,
“Mashed potatoes! Mashed potatoes! Mashed potatoes!”
We all whoop in exuberant harmonies
Until at last the little one has had her fill
Of slushy spuds
And heads toward other possibilities,
In this case a large puddle just up the path
To which she applies her new teasel
With great vigor and intention,
Whipping up a fresh batch
Of unforgettably delicious mud soup
To nourish us all.

By Buff Whitman-Bradley

granddaughter walking with her grandparents


Buff Whitman-Bradley’s poetry has been published in many print and online journals including Atlanta Review, Bryant Literary Review, Concho River Review, Crannog, december, Hawai’i Review, Pinyon, Rockhurst Review, Solstice, Third Wednesday, Watershed Review, and others. He has written several books of poems, including When Compasses Grow Old, To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World, and Cancer Cantata. He was the producer of the Courage to Resist Audio Project and co-producer of two documentary films, Outside In and Por Que Venimos. He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.

Photo of toddler and grandparents by David Pereiras Villagrá.

Concert Season

The winter rains have just begun
And little by little
Frogs are starting to sing again
One here one there
Testing the acoustics
For the upcoming concert season
When performances will continue
Day and night
Filling the wet, chilly air
With a thousand voices.
And those of us lucky enough
To have season tickets
Will occupy our special seats
On soggy ground
Or rotting logs
And listen enthralled
As their irrepressible music
Makes its way to us
Through dense thickets
And the stew and stink
Of decaying marshland vegetation,
Rises above the bare, gaunt trees
And into the bottomless sky
Far from the mud of home.

By Buff Whitman-Bradley

pacific tree frog  resting on leaf


Buff Whitman-Bradley’s poetry has been published in many print and online journals including Atlanta Review, Bryant Literary Review, Concho River Review, Crannog, december, Hawai’i Review, Pinyon, Rockhurst Review, Solstice, Third Wednesday, Watershed Review, and others. He has written several books of poems, including When Compasses Grow Old, To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World, and Cancer Cantata. He was the producer of the Courage to Resist Audio Project and co-producer of two documentary films, Outside In and Por Que Venimos. He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.

Photo of Pacific tree frog (aka Pacific chorus frog) resting on leaf by Teresa Gueck

Critters

Grasshoppers

As children we learned
Playing in the parched grasses of July
That grasshoppers
Are not mere insects
That hatch and metamorphose
But enchanted creatures
Leaping suddenly into being
Fully formed
Out of summer’s basement door
To give us little jolts
Of apprehension and delight
At the spine-tingling otherness
On the loose in the whirring world.

child holding grasshopper

Millipede

A parade of one
The shiny black millipede
Marches smartly along the trail
Left right, left right, left right,
Left right, left right, left right . . .
Nobody out of step

Cabbage Butterflies

Unlike their more colorful kin
Cabbage butterflies dress
With an elegant simplicity
That would not be out of place
At gatherings of the haut monde /–/
Paper white wings
With one or two artfully placed black dots
For a tasteful soupçon of contrast.
But cabbage butterflies
Have no particular preference
For soirées and teas
In the flawlessly manicured//jardins
Of the overprivileged
And are perfectly content to shoot the breeze
With the proletarian bugs and bees
That toil away in the flowers and trees
In the humble jumble of our front yard.

Quail

One at a time
With several seconds
Between each
Fifteen quail come scooting
Out of a blackberry thicket
Onto the wide, weedy path
Where they busily forage
For whatever it is
That quails eat.
What I don’t get
Is the one-by-one business.
Why don’t they exit the brambles
As a covey
All at the same time?
Is it some kind of survival strategy?
Is the idea that
If the bird in front of you
Gets attacked by a predator
You stay put
In the relative safety
Of the tangle of thorny stems?
If that is the case
How do they decide
The order in which
They come out into the open?
Wouldn’t everyone
Want to go last?
I know I would.

By Buff Whitman-Bradley

family of california quail


Buff Whitman-Bradley’s poetry has been published in many print and online journals including Atlanta Review, Bryant Literary Review, Concho River Review, Crannog, december, Hawai’i Review, Pinyon, Rockhurst Review, Solstice, Third Wednesday, Watershed Review, and others. He has written several books of poems, including When Compasses Grow Old, To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World, and Cancer Cantata. He was the producer of the Courage to Resist Audio Project and co-producer of two documentary films, Outside In and Por Que Venimos. He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.

Photo of child with grasshopper by Tonbeyl. Photo of California Quail family by PStedrak.

Blackberries ― for Nina

When we emerge from the woods
Into the open sun-soaked field
Both sides of the path
Are lined with dense thickets
Of blackberries.
We lift our granddaughter
Out of the stroller
And the three of us get to work
Seeking out the blackest, softest
Knobbly little packages
Of sweetness and inner light
And popping them into our mouths.
Oh, is it not a wondrous world?
On these outings
The little girl’s attention span
Determines our schedule and itinerary
So we wait for her to decide
When to move on
And continue picking and eating
For several more minutes
Until she figures
She’s been pricked and poked enough
And it’s time to go.
As we are leaving
She picks a few more berries
This time green ones
That she can hold in her hand
As we walk.
She is a collector
Of all manner of outdoor treasure –
Seeds, leaves, wildflowers
Feathers, acorns, rocks –
And a handful of small hard unripe blackberries
Is quite a prize.
May it always be so.

By Buff Whitman-Bradley

girl picking berries


Buff Whitman-Bradley’s poetry has been published in many print and online journals including Atlanta Review, Bryant Literary Review, Concho River Review, Crannog, december, Hawai’i Review, Pinyon, Rockhurst Review, Solstice, Third Wednesday, Watershed Review, and others. He has written several books of poems, including When Compasses Grow Old, To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World, and Cancer Cantata. He was the producer of the Courage to Resist Audio Project and co-producer of two documentary films, Outside In and Por Que Venimos. He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.

Photo of girl picking berries by maximkabb.

Sunny Days: Two Poems

Spring!

Weeks and weeks
Of rain after rain after rain
But today the sun has made
A triumphant return
And along with it
The electric extravagance
Of the grasses
The dazzling blue pageantry
Of the hawk-inhabited sky
And my heart’s invincible Wow!

By Buff Whitman-Bradley
 
 
The First Sunny Day in Weeks

Watching a northern harrier
Swooping and soaring
Circling and hovering and diving
Above the broad green marsh
And two white-tailed kites
Performing an intricate aerobatic duet
High overhead
In the glittering afternoon air
We find it difficult to believe
That we are witnessing
Merely genetically encoded
Hunting and mating behavior
And not spontaneous tarantellas of wild elation
For the first sunny day in weeks

By Buff Whitman-Bradley

sunny spring day in grasslands


Buff Whitman-Bradley’s poetry has appeared in many print and online journals. He is the author of several volumes of poetry, most recently Cancer Cantata, poems written during his treatment for cancer in 2016. He lives with his wife Cynthia in northern California.

Photo of sunny grassland by Yuri Kravchenko