“Why don’t you turn at the next corner,”
she said, “and take another road home.
Let’s go past that farm with all the
different colored lilacs.”
Leo Dangel

Did I mention I was going to take a break from poetry or at least blogging about poetry for the weekend?  I needed time to gather the books of poems strewn around the house–on the kitchen table, under the bed, buried in stacks of newspapers–and to think about where I was after seven days of verse.

Four Kinds of Lilacs seems like a good place to pick it up again.  I’ve been in Santa Fe for almost twenty years, but I’m always surprised when the purple clusters begin to show themselves in April.   In western Kansas where I grew up they lag by several weeks (or at least they used to), making them the perfect May Day flower.  As a kid, I filled baskets made of colored construction paper with lilacs and candy, dropped them on neighbors’ porches, rang the bell, and ran.

Friday night I stepped off the sidewalk and into a flowerbed downtown to catch a whiff of a just-opened blossom.  It smelled like spring.


Coyote, with Mange

Why have you chosen to punish the coyote
rummaging for chicken bones in the dung heap,
shucked the fur from his tail
and fashioned it into a scabby cane?
Mark Wunderlich

Photo By: Paula Nixon

I said no photos but couldn’t resist posting this one again.  It goes so well with today’s poem, Coyote, with Mange.

My little corner of New Mexico would not be the same without our native canid.  This year our state legislature came close to banning coyote killing contests, but it didn’t happen.  The bill passed three committees and the Senate, but died at the end of the  session before it made it to a vote on the floor of the House.

Maybe next year.


Breakfast with Mary

a fainting, ghostly presence
with a tail so naked it was
embarrassed to drag behind him.
Faith Shearin

My mother-in-law and I sat at the kitchen table.  She was eating oatmeal while I read Possum in the Garbage aloud.  Mary doesn’t say much, so I wasn’t sure if she liked the poem or not.  She has her favorites, many memorized in grammar school back in New Jersey.  Somewhere, I have a recording of her reciting Wordsworth’s I wandered lonely as a cloud.

The Moose

A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus’s hot hood.
Elizabeth Bishop

Looking back, I can’t remember how I got into a conversation about a moose with a complete stranger at my local grocery store.  We were both juggling an armful of stuff in the 15-items-or-less line and found ourselves comparing notes on the animals we had seen on trips to Yellowstone.  Elk, coyote, buffalo.  But it was the moose, she told me, that made her cry.

The Moose is a long poem, like the bus trip it describes, but it’s worth the journey through the stanzas for the reward at the end.

Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water.
Ted Kooser

Nebraska is Ted Kooser’s home and his poems take me back to the plains where I grew up—dark skies and the never-ending horizon.  He was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004-2006 and these days edits the column American Life in Poetry.

Here is the link to the full text of his poem Flying at Night.


No one would take her when Ruth passed,
As the survivors assessed some antiques,
I kept hearing, “She’s old. Somebody
should put her down.”
Ron Koertge

Mondays have improved greatly since I discovered American Life in Poetry.  Ted Kooser’s weekly column slips into my email inbox when I’m not looking, distracted by my to-do list for the week.  He rarely prints a poem that I don’t enjoy.

This recent one about an old cat named Lily is one of my favorites.

Note: Future poetry posts may appear solely on the Facebook page associated with Black Raven Red Sneakers.

The Comet of 1910

It was roaring down the stormtracks
of the Milky Way at a frightful speed
and if it wandered off its course
and smashed into the earth
there’d be no school tomorrow.
—Stanley Kunitz

Reading Halley’s Comet makes me think of my grandfathers.  Like the poet, both were in grammar school when the comet made its first appearance of the 20th Century—it comes close enough to Earth be visible once every 75 years or so.

Did those little boys look up at the night sky searching for a streak of light?

Imagine a Wolf Reading a Fairy Tale

This is a real wolf, standing on all fours,
his rich fur bristling in the night air,
his head is bent over the book open on the ground.
Billy Collins

A happy coincidence that Lobo Week ends on the day that National Poetry Month begins!  Here is a link to the poem Wolf, excerpted above.

I plan to post a poem or a link to a poem each day in April.  No pictures, just words.  Mix freely with a big dose of imagination!


Twenty-Three Lobo Pups Have New Names

Once again it’s spring and last year’s Mexican wolf pups born in the wild have been given names by kids ranging from kindergartners to 8th-graders.  This was the fifth year of Lobos of the Southwest’s contest and there were so many creative entries.  You can see all of them here.

Artwork courtesy of McKenna H. & Lobos of the Southwest

Eleven wolf families had pups that got names.

Bear Wallow Pack: Zyanya

Bluestem Pack:  Atira, Chico, Keystone, Moonlight

Diamond Pack:  Aleu, Argentum, Rio Espiritu, Spirit, Ulv

Elkhorn Pack:  River

Hoodoo Pack:  Moon Beam, Willow

Iron Creek Pack:  Fortitudo, Zeus

Leopold Pack:  Akela

Luna Pack:  Pluto

Essay courtesy of Adel V. and Lobos of the Southwest

Panther Creek Pack:  Centinela, Da-Kari, Rakesh

Prieto Pack:  Paz, Peaceful

San Mateo Pack:  Sentouki

Some of the names not assigned to pups were reserved in the event more pups (from the 2016 litters) are captured and collared.  Two of those runners-up are featured here.

Thank you to all of the kids who participated and put so much thought and effort into names for the wolf pups.  Long live the lobos!



Norma’s Leap of Faith

So many people have put so much time and effort into the recovery of the endangered population of Mexican gray wolves.  One of the earliest was Norma Ames the team leader of the group that wrote the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan published in 1982.  Below is a brief piece I wrote about her. #LoboWeek

Photo Credit: Mark Dumont via Compfight cc

The wolf presented the mangled trophy to Norma–a dead ground squirrel.  That was the moment she began to believe the beleaguered Mexican gray wolf had a shot at making a comeback in the wild.

Norma Ames, trained as a biologist, was the assistant chief of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department in 1971 when she adopted two endangered wolf pups born in captivity at the Department’s Ghost Ranch facility.  She built an enclosure on her large, remote property in the forest, a place to raise and socialize the pups.

Five years after she took those first pups home (she later adopted a second pair), Mexican gray wolves, cousins to the northern gray wolf, were added to the endangered species list.  In constant conflict with ranchers in the Southwest, their population had been decimated by relentless trapping, shooting, and poisoning.   Seven wolves, called the McBride line for the trapper who captured them in the late 70s (all that he could locate), were brought in to start a breeding program.

The day Norma realized her wolves could and would still hunt she stopped the socializing, began to keep her distance.  She strove to keep them as wild as possible, hoping that someday they might be reintroduced into their native habitat.

In the early 80s Norma headed up the team that published a recovery plan for the Mexican wolf.

From the time I picked up and read the report with Norma’s name on the cover page, I wanted to know more about her, but where to go to ask questions about a woman who wrote a relatively obscure government report more than 30 years ago.  It turns out someone did find Norma and asked at least some of my questions.  Peter Steinhart recounted the story of her role in the recovery of Mexican wolves in his 1995 book The Company of Wolves.

Norma’s wolves weren’t destined for the wild.  Their lineage, Ghost Ranch, was considered tainted, not pure wolf.  She stopped breeding them and, one by one, they died of old age.  In 1987 after she had retired and was preparing to sell her place and move she had to make the tough decision to euthanize the lone survivor.  She did it to save the wolf from living out its life in a cage at a zoo.

But in 1997, the year before the first McBride wolves were released in the mountains of Arizona, genetic testing confirmed that the Ghost Ranch lineage, which had been maintained in New Mexico, was pure and the two lines, plus another from Mexico, were crossbred, giving the population a much-needed genetic boost and a better chance at recovery.

Wolves mate once a year in the winter, typically in February.  Norma died in February of 2005, seven years into the reintroduction effort.  Recovery was inching forward, with long term survival of Mexican wolves still not assured.  But by then there were eleven families of wolves running free in Arizona and New Mexico and several of the breeding wolves had been born in the wild.

More than twenty wolf pups were born in the spring of 2005 with at least ten still surviving at the end of the year.   Some of them carried Ghost Ranch genes.