Two Poems by Betsy Nelson

Birds in Afghanistan

Siberian Chiffchaffs, Leaf Warblers,
Reed Warblers, Whitethroats,
seek the walnut trees shading Kabul’s parks
for jewels of aphids.
Migrant birds, they avoid the Tree of Heaven.

Sulphur-bellied Warblers hunt insects
on passageway walls tilting over shop stalls, cafes.
They journey from distant cliffs sculpted by erosion
to street canyons chiseled
by fatigue, explosions.

Fugues sung by canaries,
yellow as stars in the dark side alleys,
resonate through the bird market.
Wicker cages dangle from hooks,
birds lift beaks to the sky.

Crested larks wait for troops of boys, camels
in the desert, mists of insects
stirred to air with boots and hooves,
their own feathered bodies
too light for releasing bug clouds or landmines.

Golden Eagles of Afghanistan
soar over drones
as assured, quiet as the raptors above.
Both leave streaming
moonlight shadows.

Dancing with Peacocks

They always cry ‘Oway Oway”
before they sleep
in the dry forest trees
of Myanmar.

Poachers know the peacock’s call,
vibrant as the eyes
on fanned tail feathers,
know their captives bring
pride, resistance, power

to kings, juntas, rebels.

Yellow-eyed Babblers,
White-tailed Stonechats
flit through grassy islands
of the Irrawaddy.

Blue-tailed Bee-eaters
nest on sandy banks.
White-throated Babblers,
Purple Sunbirds
shine in the thorny savannah

where birds sprayed in colors
follow sun
through crumbled brick
in thousands of pagodas,
alight on towering gilded
Buddhas calling birds
to beams of dusted gold,

lamas, worshippers to holy war,

while children dancing
under far-off forest branches
share the shade with the wild
brilliance of peacocks.

Betsy Nelson writes and illustrates poetry, appearing in Persimmon Tree, PoetryAndCovid, Soul-Lit, Lascaux Review, and at the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference.

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