September

In a thicket
off the trail
between a creek
and the cottonwoods
blocking the sky
the earth’s silence
is broken
for minutes
at a time
by summer’s late
cicada rattle
and after
it has passed
by the rustling
when a Pipevine
Swallowtail
moves its wings
to ease
itself from
a sunflower head
too heavy
for its stalk.

By David Chorlton

black pipevine butterfly on yellow flower


David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications on- and off-line, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and late in 2017 The Bitter Oleander Press will publish Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.

Photo of Pipevine Swallowtail by the author

Nighthawk

In the steel heat of a monsoon sky
thunder wells up inside
the clouds: dark noise
wrapped in waiting
for the first rain since the doves
arrived from their tropical
winters. Along the wash

the walking trail’s a trickle
of dry concrete
flanked by grass and gravel
all the way to where the houses
turn to desert
and the nighthawk sleeps.
The inner light of trees

illuminates the street
as the sun falls low behind them
and the sky displays
a palette ranging gray
to cumulous white with a gilded
edge. Against the oncoming
dark, the palm fronds

become a green not
of this Earth, and for a moment
an Apocalypse glows
in the eucalyptus, but each day
ends like this when storms
are building out of reach
and darkness is a pointed wing.

By David Chorlton

nighthawk on fencepost


David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications on- and off-line, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and late in 2017 The Bitter Oleander Press will publish Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.

Photo of common nighthawk by Steve Byland

House with Wings

A winter morning’s Cooper’s hawk
sends a chill of silence
through the Inca doves who know
when to disappear. They’re early
with the thrasher, whose call identifies
the yard as desert, even while pigeons
claim it for the city. We moved
into this house when Black widow spiders
held a lease on the crawl space
and lizards were lightning
on the orange tree trunk. The foundations
have shifted from Carter
to Reagan to Clinton to what
we have now, and mockingbirds
still line the darkness in spring
with the silver in their songs. The high
pitched chatter in the palm trees
turns green with a flash
of lovebirds, for whom the neighborhood
is almost Africa. When it’s late
for the sparrows and finches,
a few bats shred the air
with their wings, and the single
brown note from Abert’s towhee
is the sound of the sun going down.

By David Chorlton

rosy-faced lovebirds in Phoenix tree


David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications on- and off-line, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and late in 2017 The Bitter Oleander Press will publish Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.

Photo of rosy-faced lovebirds in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, by the author

In the Moment

for Vicky D.

As often as it happens, when
you see a sudden deer
standing still as the mountain it lives on
there’s a silence that runs deep
into the earth
for the moment until
a shiver of sound
is caught in the wide open ears
and the head turns a few degrees
before she runs through summer’s grass
and disappears into the calls
of an oriole in woodland.
Such moments remind us
this is land between granite and grass
with horizons that tilt
beneath storms in their season
and valleys where thirst
runs on a riverbed
until the day the rains draw
toads from underground
to become the beating hearts of night.
This is the time
trees sing to themselves,
when owls are quick and stars
flow across the peaks. Look out
into the universe, take a step
in the moon’s direction
and look back at what surrounds you:
bedrock, cactus ribs, gravel trails
and junipers. After sunrise
you might find a rattlesnake stretching
out on a warming trail, look
a bear in the eyes as he ambles
on the other bank of a stream, or flush
a covey of quail from the shade,
and surprise will be what binds you all
to common ground.

By David Chorlton

cactus and sunset lit butte in Hewitt Canyon, Arizona


David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications on- and off-line, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and late in 2017 The Bitter Oleander Press will publish Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.

Photo by Anton Foltin

Field Trip to Oak Flat

An ice wind blows across
mesquite and manzanilla
tearing the eyes
of those who wait for birds
to thaw from the trees.
Sunlight reaches down

between rocks to where
grasses are a mist of warmth
and beneath them

deeper than cold
or heat, the tunnels converge
through which darkness
travels at the speed of light

and a gopher’s
are the eyes of the Earth.

By David Chorlton

Gopher peering out of tunnel hole


David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications on- and off-line, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and late in 2017 The Bitter Oleander Press will publish Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.

Photo by James McKay