To a Red-Winged Black Bird on the Advent of Spring

For some a robin heralds in the Spring.
Others: a crocus or a daffodil.
My old man claims it’s when nightchirpers sing.
The farmer cites the rain, the barnyard rill.
I sense it when the maple-lines come down;
when pruning-ladders rise upon Fern Hill.
I sense it when the buds begin to crown;
but in completion it is not until
I see you perched upon a cattail-reed;
the reed, against your ebony, horse-brown.
The handsomest of birds, you seem to bleed
from daring deeds of triumph and renown.
Alone, among these humble reeds, you’re mellow,
with epaulettes of red and goldish-yellow.


A Story for Couples in Shock

Mary Decker was endowed with lush fertility.
She added nine small young ones to her husband’s family tree.
Over the years, she grew quite large. She was a splendid cook.
The recipes which filled her head could have comprised a book.

After the ninth small young one she had really had enough.
She confronted her husband as he took a pinch of snuff.
“I’m getting tied. I’ve had enough of diapers and the rest.”
Her husband was subservient, wearing his Sunday best.

She visited the doctor who was a stout Catholic man.
(This was back in the fifties.) “I will do all that I can,”
he told her ere he tied her tubes but not so tightly that
in nine more months there was a baby underneath her fat.

She couldn’t tell. The pregnancy was the ectopic kind.
The baby could not move around. Thus poor Mary was blind
to what would lay before her (or on top of her) so soon.
She went into the hospital as full as a balloon.

“Appendicitis,” she had said, suffering from labor cramps.
They put her under to find out. The room was bright with lamps.
Think of what it’d do to you if you woke up to find
a crying baby on your breast! I think you’d lose your mind.

Mary Decker was in shock. “That baby isn’t mine.”
It took three months but Mary loved that baby in good time.
Thank God we are not rabbits; and although at first we’re scared
besides the Mary Deckers. There’s nine-months to get prepared.


Reid McGrath lives and writes in the Hudson Valley Region of New York.

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6 Responses

  1. ben grinberg

    in reading your blog i found a couple phrases that really too my breathe in the same way as this poem:

    In writing about homesteading and working on my property I feel like the man who cheats with his mistress in his wife’s house

    I once had the opportunity to establish a relationship with an Amish family in Ohio. I was amazed to see the efficiency of their agricultural enterprises.

  2. David Hollywood

    Gosh! Such different poems and each with a unique quality. The Red Winged Black Bird I yearned for its arrival.Lovely. Whereas Couples in Shock was wonderfully plotted – so structured it was almost the setting for a script and stage performance. Tense! Thank you for both.

  3. Wendy Bourke

    I enjoyed these 2 diverse pieces – though both share a wonderful rhyme and cadence and are cleverly sketched. Good writing!

  4. Michelle Simon

    The first poem is nice. But for me the second was even better. Maybe, because it tells a story…I don’t know. In any case, I don’t believe I could have told the same kind of story so poetically, had I months to try. Good work!

  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Exquisite and an absolute privilege to read. Thank you! We’ve got plenty of redwing blackbirds in Texas, and isn’t the difference in coloration between the male and female amazing?! They love the rice fields down here. In the UK (my homeland) our blackbirds aren’t blessed with a colorful wing… I’m besotted with the birds here… I’m seeing new ones every week!


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