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

To The Passengers In The Airplane Passing By 35 Thousand Feet Above Us

We just now caught a glimpse of your jet
Through the branches of the large oak
We are sitting beneath
To keep cool
As we mind our granddaughter
Sleeping in her stroller.
For the past half hour
We have been entertained
By a male redwing blackbird
In the nearby marsh
As he flies about in the reeds
Alighting briefly on one, then another
Puffs himself up
To show off his scarlet shoulders
And sings in his most virile voice
To claim territory
For one or several wives.
Closer by
A large yellow and black swallowtail butterfly
Performs a gossamer gavotte
In trees and bushes and flowering brambles.
The shade of the oak and a light breeze
Keep us comfortable on this very hot day.
When your plane passes overhead
We think of you sitting inside
And hope you are having a pleasant journey
That you have enough legroom
That the person next to you is genial but not intrusive
That the food is tasty
The movie entertaining
And that all is well with you up there
At thirty-five thousand feet in the air.
Down here
We’re just fine.

By Buff Whitman-Bradley


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.

Drought’s End

The reservoirs are topped off
Countless storm-toppled trees
Litter the woods
Resurrected streams
Tumble their ebullient way
Over boulders and logs
And down steep slopes.
All wet winter long
We have gamely donned our rain gear
Day after day
For our walks to the market and the post office
Our hikes in the forest
While cheerfully reminding each other
“We need this rain!”

All wet winter long
We have been students
Of weather forecasts and tide tables
Have stayed awake nights
Listening for the flood siren
Waiting for the crash of a branch
Through the roof
As monster deluges
Came freight-training over the hills.
“We really need these storms!”
We told ourselves.

All wet northern California winter long
We have awakened most mornings
To impervious and impenetrable iron-gray skies
While doing our very best to buck up
And congratulate each other
On the splendid weather we were having.
Only in our most secret heart of hearts
Have we dared admit to ourselves
That perhaps we were growing
The tiniest bit weary
Of the saturated and sunless days
We had been enjoying
And wouldn’t spring be a good idea?

By Buff Whitman-Bradley

couple hiking in rainy forest


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 by Jaromír Chalabala