Birds, eggs & other journal notes

Mourning Doves:
  • Their brains register the task of parenting
  • Together they build a sloppy nest
  • The eggs are laid — typically two
  • After the eggs hatch, the father and mother alike feed their nestlings with milk
  • They eventually offer plant seeds from their beaks (mourning doves eat mostly seeds)
  • The hatchlings grow strong and go on to sing more distinctively than most other birds
  • Their calls evoke a few simple woodwind notes
  • Ancient woodwinds were used to mimic animal calls
  • The Northern Paiute word for wind instrument is te-mo’-yaga-ke-no
  • Rock doves, like drunks, walk precariously close to moving car tires
  • Great-tailed grackles — house guests behaving badly
  • A Northern mockingbird — inexhaustible in his spry April song
  • Darwin acquired various types of pigeons, breeding them to help him build evidence for his theory of natural selection, which he would present in On the Origin of Species
  • He became uncharacteristically smitten with his pigeons, science writer Courtney Humphries stated in her book Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan … and the World

When it’s nightfall

When it’s nightfall, the old ladies with sunglasses will be gone and the birds will have simmered down. The air will grow sweeter with the trees, and out come the stars, poking through the sky — a block of cobalt fading into indigo then charcoal.

Darkness — loud music and headlights as far as passing cars go. Not knowing who was entering the park. Echoing voices, who was laughing in whatever group and about what. What was being smoked near the gazebo, in the children’s park and in the public lot.

And her: she pushed her seat back and turned her flashlight on, looked in her bag for her compact then pulled her sneakers off, switching to stilettos. Heading for the darkened clubhouse, she heard the bottom notes on a radio, the speakers shuddering.

Boom-boom, the music went. Then clapping of hands cutting through screeches of women. The thunderous voices of men — one of them yelling. Another car pulling in; a small pack of pigeons parting then sidling up by the tires, cooing for sustenance.

Rant of a queer witch

Why is there only a good witch and a bad witch in The Wizard of Oz?
Why not a not-so-good witch and a not-so bad witch?
Or a sometimes-fair and sometimes-not witch?
A maybe-so witch?
A you-never-know-what-she-has-up-her-sleeve witch?
A middle-of-the-road witch?
A little-bit-of-this and a little-bit-of-that witch?
A she’s-having-a-bad-day-so-you’d-better-watch-out witch?
This is why I call myself an intuitive witch:
I respond to my environment.
In nature there are no species that do not branch off
into sometimes innumerable breeds.
So what is it with these binaries?
Speaking of witch (W-I-T-C-H),
why wasn’t the wizard a drag queen?

2 great-tailed grackles

Illustration by Laszlo Layton.

Lately I’ve become quite the nature aficionado, specifically regarding the flora & fauna in my community. The other day I spotted 2 great-tailed grackles trading courtship calls from polar opposite ends of a Washoe pine. I thought it quite amusing since these are raucous birds with shrill cries, obscenely long beaks for their body size & all-around abrupt behavior. Yet here was this would-be couple acting like reticent teenagers at a high school prom, having eyes for each other from across the gym floor, wondering if they’d be able to share a dance before the final song.

Swedish Fish

Photo by Las Vegas poet/editor/literary critic Heather Lang.
I kicked my candy habit several years ago (except chocolate, of course), but I fell off the wagon yesterday due to a visually enticing candy buffet at an art/poetry event where I read some of my poetry and did live art. Some of the treats were vintage, like SweeTarts and those cute boxes of candy cigarettes. Who could resist such novelty? Not me: I flipped open a pack of Lucky Lights and indulged while chatting with a fellow poet and this woman from a local magazine.

In case you’ve never tasted them, the cigarettes are pure sugar (no duh) with a hint of winter mint. They have a blotch of red at the tip to make them appear lit. Ha. After a few of those, I dove into a plastic shot glass full of Swedish Fish, which used to be one of my biggest candy vices. I could no longer hold conversation at that point because I kept on popping them into my mouth. I mean, chewing them is no easy feat. The image of dogs comes to mind when they’re given Gummy Bears, Jujubes or sometimes peanut butter.

“Pardon me while I eat some Swedish Fish,” I wanted to say to the people I was with. And maybe even, “Look away if you wish.” You know, rhyming it, just to keep it in the spirit of the event.

Streams of light

I am stuck at an intersection coming off of a sleepy side street onto the main thoroughfare during rush hour. No one in Vegas will let up to allow me in but I don’t care: I’ve got all damn day, and I’ve grown so accustomed to intersections, whether in a car or not. I am content to just sit here in limbo since it’s such a familiar spot. One top of that, no one is behind me, so I’m just like, whatevah, la-di-da, que sera. I turn on the radio and watch the endless stream of cars, like so many forgone opportunities. I think of those fiery balls of color in a Roman candle, tearing into the sky, one by one, with a piercing whistle and a trail of light but then fizzling out. Still, people keep making those things. And there are always shooting stars.

Upon awakening in the wild

I see my hand and my arm for what they are one morning while I hold onto my coffee mug — a thick one the size of a large tumbler. My grip is oddly simian, with my fist resting lazily yet firmly on the broad handle — like one would clench those roof-mounted loops in mass transit vehicles — a takeoff on monkey bars.

My legs, meanwhile, are getting a bit hairy, I notice, and my feet, in my thick cotton socks, make them seem so stumpy. These parts of my anatomy seem to become separate from me as I watch my form reclining on my couch. (I have a strange bird’s-eye view of my body as I slump into the back cushion.)

I decide I am not unlike that stray cat that I see rolled over onto its back on a patch of grass near the shrubs by my neighbor’s apartment, basking in the sunlight after a night that could have been full of excitement, rest or torment.

Close encounters

1. Somebody looked like somebody I know, with the blue sweatsuit and the lack of makeup — the worried look on her face. Her name was not Chris. This woman had different hair, too. But she was browsing the new age books, so theoretically, it could have been her, but it turned out that it wasn’t.

2. This time someone looked like my former coworker. She had corn-colored hair with dark roots and a long pony tail, but she wasn’t pregnant. I cannot remember a time when my coworker was not somewhere along in the nine-month cycle. She was always either with child or on maternity leave. Also, this woman was drinking coffee, and that is not recommended during pregnancy (on the off-chance that it really was my former coworker but she just wasn’t showing yet.)


I am here to say please do not bother getting all your ducks in a row. You will only die trying. Anything recommended in a row is twisted wisdom — masochistic at best.


Oddly, I do not actually own a crotch rocket. I have only thought longingly about riding one, as well as obsessing over where I would put groceries and what if I fell.

A different city

They were going out onto the street. They would hold hands and just stroll. They didn’t care that they’d have to walk half a mile on an unseasonably hot day to the nearest hotel to catch a cab — the sky cloudless. They were in a strange city — different from where they currently lived. So what if all they’d see along the way was a few bus stops, a strip club here and there — not yet open — and various business facilities in an area zoned for light industrial. All and all, sights, sounds and smells — the choky odor of diesel exhaust — that would be otherwise dull and tiresome — even sickening — back home. This was Vegas.

Three thoughts

1) Vegas Pampas Elegy —
A stalk of pampas grass in proud bloom
dislodged and strewn on the lawn by the gazebo
like a cocktail toothpick the hue of cigarette smoke —
cast by a wind that blew through town
like a drunken tourist who later lays down
done with and alone

2) Web —
Web woven so magnanimously —
just like the work of bees or ants
Meticulous & time-consuming
and it turns out to be
this intricate miracle
that some might think
is a mere tangle of string

3) How the Nose Knows —
If you could still smell something
but not in a literal sense
do you say you can smell it
in your noses’s eye
(like in your mind’s eye)?
Or is the nose not equipped
with such faculties?
Because in my mind
we are talking about
the same mental facet
in either case, it seems to me
Or maybe it’s nasal memory?

I don’t care about the wind

Today everything is beautiful
and everything can do what it wants
I am in a good place
I don’t care about the wind
and the mess that it makes on the patio
Tonight I am having a lazy dinner
of sandwich and soup
Airplanes are so loud
that we hear them from down here
but I don’t care
My socks feel good on my feet
and I have my sweater on
My cat is sleeping
I am listening to the wind
and the birds tweet
So much for the sake of tomorrow

Out on the town

How’s this for the first line of a short story?

“They couldn’t avoid being slobs at the restaurant table during their first date.”

I mean, anything can happen after that. Just anything. But I like it ’cause right off the bat it’s a predicament.

We could make these two people horny as fuck. And you know where it would go from there. Someone passes the ketchup, and then one thing leads to another. Mayhem. Half-cooked hamburger meat and everything else. Pickles. Soda. Hot sauce, for crying out loud.

Or perhaps they are guests at a wedding where lobster is being served. Assuming it’s a woman and a man, the woman would have to wrangle with the shell to exhume the meat, which may or may not look appealing to the male. Maybe the woman’s hands might look too masculine, or maybe she has really short nails, and the fact that she is digging into something moist and fleshy makes them look all the worse. And the guy — maybe he can’t bust open the shell. Or he gets stabbed by a claw and makes a big deal over it. Walks around in a huff looking for the first-aid kit and such. Yells at the waiter. The woman’s father shaking his head disapprovingly. Nobody getting any that night.


they had a long conversation over coffee at the coffee place. Uninterrupted eye contact. She was leaning toward him, hunched over the table. He was leaning back in his chair — reclining almost, wearing pricey sweats, footies and Nike SBs. She was in a dishy black dress and pumps, had big eyelashes on. She had long hair, nearly down to her butt, but she still managed to make a bun on top of her head, as in ancient Rome like a patrician. A participant of taxpayer-supported orgies. The guy, meanwhile, looked delighted. His nose was long and sharp. He had a maniacal smile. He showed her a photo on his cellphone. She laughed, mouth wide, in a deriding way.  She was playing with her hair. He was gesturing, attempting to look sincere. She concurred. Leaned in toward him and laughed. She went to pee and then came back and nursed the last of her water. His macchiato was now just a puddle of foam and ice. They stared at each other, wordless. She tapped her upper lip with the tip of her finger, smirking at him, playing at suspicion.

The mushroom lady

The mushroom lady is afoot after a winter-long downtime. She has the air of someone who worked in retail or perhaps an administrative office in a grade school. In her Old Navy shorts and button-down shirt and her hair done like Margaret Thatcher, she prowls the grounds of the apartment complex for sprouts of fungi. Then she sits on the ground and tears away tufts of the lawn like a kid in a sandbox.
Did her line of work have her yanking out hair of her own?
Or maybe she suffered a broken heart?
A widow, sometimes she uses
her two small dogs as a ruse
to go digging for mushrooms
more than once a day, the
yield stashed in a plastic
bag in lieu of poop,
which she allows
the dogs to do,
but she does
not bother