Ode to 1441


We opened the pens and let them out
On the Florida prairie, the young whooping cranes,
They were so beautiful in that early light,
As I watched them walk into an amber mist,
Their cinnamon and beige feathers melding with
The delicate reds and golds of the marsh grass,
Before they disappeared in the morning glimmer
That flashed like sparks from the lake

My mother raised me and my older brother
After my father died, teaching me the ways
Of the wild she had learned over a decade,
Having been born in captivity, released from a pen,
A one year old with no survival skills,
A small instinctual handbook carried beneath her wings,
And she taught me and my brother to be wary,
Look both ways, and stay close by her side

I loved to stalk through the marsh, and romp
In the prairie grass, splash in the swamp,
Fly with my brother, hang ten
With the Sandhills coming in to evening roost
And my mother said they looked like our shadows,
Friendly ghosts, who would help keep away the terror
That comes in the night, but when I was six
The terror came and took my brother

My mother and brother built a nest
And we were surrounded by eyes cold
With moonlight, as he stood with wings outspread
To defend us, and the nest, our future,
But they lept and dragged him away.
Soon after I saw the large figures scrambling around
The marsh, and then they cried out
And took away his body

You can’t imagine the surprise my pilot and I felt
When we flew over a marsh by Lake Okeechobee
The little plane making a small insignificant shadow
On the vast expanse of water and marshlands,
And saw two cranes nesting in the wildest
Of wild places, and when we landed we saw
The older female, and with her, a younger female
By a decimated nest

Okeechobee is not a safe place to be, to nest,
To thrive, and we found the young male
Or what was left of him, thanks to the transmitter
And as we left we hoped the other two
Would abandon this place, and fly north
To the ranches and preserves of Osceola County,
And again we agonized over the death toll
Of this experimental flock

My mother and I flew back and forth from the big lake
To the smaller one, and spent our days feeding
From the troughs alongside the cattle, in spite of the odor,
And whenever the large figures would appear,
Holding black objects and huddling or darting around,
Sometimes my mother would say, ignore them,
And other times, let’s go,
They’re getting on my nerves

I watched the cranes for another five years,
The older female was over 20, a good
Long life for a captive-raised crane in the wild,
And her daughter, 1441, was over 10,
Without a mate and only her mother
For a companion; sparks of crimson
And brilliant white
In the tall green grass at sunset

And then I saw her, alone, on Canoe Creek Road
Radiant on the ranches and farms of Lake Kissimmee,
The younger female, now in her prime,
And I went home, only to wake up in the dead
Of night, and think of that whooping crane:
How people who see her will whoop
With pride at having seen her in the wild,
And how resilient she is, and how vulnerable

And what does it matter, one lonely bird
On one lonely road
When there are people dying in Syria,
When there’s the scourge of cancer,
When children are caught in the crossfire?
But I can’t help thinking of you,
On this dark night

Copyright 2017 by Mary A. Clark

289 whooping cranes were released into the wild in Central Florida between 1993 and 2004 in an effort to create a non-migratory flock. In 2008 about 30 were still alive. The project was ended due to the high mortality and lack of success raising chicks. As of 2017 only fourteen survive. Four chicks born in the wild survived to adulthood. 1441 is one of them.

Memories are Fossils


Memories are fossils, she said,

And left him on the strand

The carnival was whirling around

Food, family and dancing

On the Day of the Dead

He walked to the sand

And ran for miles, apocalypso miles,

Tumbling down to the exposed bone,

Curving bone that rims the sea

And there memory came as a tsunami

And all the fossils on the shore

Were particles of I;

After love has swept by,

Memories are fossils and I

The Old Man Sings

Sea Grapes Jetty Park
(You may sing this as a round)

Over sand flats the Old Man raves
sunlight cresting on waves
the truth is out along the borders
roving the island seeking new quarters
full of unrest, full of solace

A twisted morass bars his way
black thistle, buckthorn, and palm
rife with full-throated glory songs
roam above his outstretched arms
full of unrest, full of solace

Plundering triumphant cries of raptors
rhapsody of warblers and wrens
weave around him as he traces
the hammock’s periphery in rapture
full of unrest, full of solace

From the magic circle the echo
of a willet’s scream: will it, will it
and the royal terns’ call to arms
lure him into the echo of time
full of unrest, full of solace

The Old Man cups his ears to capture
the final alarm, the eternal song
a siren call of infinite pathos
in the flooding and the flowing out
full of life, full of death

Branches scrape above him adagio
but there is no way into, no path
through the mystifying terrain
until he cries out in a crescendo
full of death, full of life

Copyright 1998 by Mary Clark

The original poem appeared in Waterways magazine, Vol. 30, No. 11, May 2010; and Jimson Weed, Volume 30, New Series Vol. 14, No. 2, Fall 2011. In this version, the ending has been slightly revised.

A List of My Books

A gathering of my books, each showing off their titles, and links to the best ways to grab hold of ’em.

Children of Light, an epic COLCover BardPress2 (97x150)poem or “poetry novel” (don’t be daunted, it’s easy to read), published by BardPress/TenPennyPlayers, available only online for free read, printing or download.


TALLYFRONTTally: An Intuitive Life, published by the good people at All Things That Matter Press, 2013, a quirky story of an eccentric elderly man, ever-questing for the truth, and renewal of innocence. This memoir is available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.


covernantmc (4) (104x150)Covenant, a Kindle Direct ebook. Civil rights, rock’n’roll, and a changing society are the background for this tale of three kids growing up in 1960s Florida.


cropped-miamibeach3.jpgMy next book, Miami Morning, will be coming from All Things That Matter Press this year. Read more.

Children of the Moon, Chapter 18: A New Day

To read the preceding chapters, please go to the Prologue. This is the final chapter.

Mira found her father in Jose Marti Park
with a gaggle of men playing chess;
he looked up at her:
Only you cared enough to find me;
together they sat by a fountain

He lived with relatives near the site
of a Spanish garrison built at the mouth
of the Miami River in 1567, soon after destroyed
by the Tequesta and Ais tribes; 200 years
later, the tribes’ survivors left Florida for Cuba

He told her he had seen Primitivo:
He’s doing well; he likes it where he is;
and then her father confided:
He shocked me, though; he said he saw
a man leaving Blanca Cors’ house that night.

A man, not a boy, not Sandy;
he never said anything because
he thought no one would believe him.

Mira responded urgently:
He has to tell the police!
Her father nodded and took her hand:
I went with him to the tribal leaders
and we talked to the police and FBI.

At the prison, Morris Rubra informed Sandy:
Evidence has surfaced to show you are not
the one guilty of the attack on Blanca Cors;
another man has been identified,
and he has confessed.

Sandy rose to his feet, confused, searching:
Why did he wait so long?
All along he must have known.

The lawyer replied:
He believes the system is corrupt
and your conviction proved his case;
I’m told he reveled in the irony,
and watched you like a hawk

It was only when he knew we had him
dead to rights that he decided to revel
instead in the stories of his carnage;
he’s the same man indicted for the murder
of the woman whose remains Mira discovered.

Sandy took a deep breath:
I mourn his victims and I mourn his loss
of innocence.

Morris Rubra placed a hand on his shoulder:
It’s time for you to think of the future.
This evening, you’ll be released;
Sandy pressed his hands to his eyes:
Thank you.

Laurel walked with the grace of a dancer,
her laugh as infusive as a citrus in bloom;
she was a tower of songs; when she spoke,
her words were preceded by veil-like, dancing
sands across Sandy’s stomach and chest

When he finally heard her, the tones
were rich and slow, heavy fragrant flowers,
almost possible to touch

At the ranch Sandy felt a terrible pain,
a numb, aching nostalgia,
as the world tipped from view;
he saw it all as though from a separate place,
scaled down visions, distant, skewed

In the corral horses were swirling, whirling,
performing in formation; too many horses
at the rodeo, racing in every direction

A series of shocks and jolts disengaged
him from the center, but he struggled
to hold on and keep his balance
as gravity played havoc,
and then he began to fall

He confided to Laurel:
It’s no good. I don’t belong here anymore;
she took him to the beach house,
and in the cradle of echoing dunes
the ebb and flow soothed him

A fishing ship began its long slow turn
into the channel, an opalescent shoreline
turned its face to the moon:
a bright and translucent reflection
washed over them, mating with their own

They lay beside each other on a desert
of blue and white sands, in isolation
formed by their desire; Laurel touched him;
he broke apart, as when the Earth expanded
and continents formed new worlds

On the imprintable sand, they made love
dappled by moonlight and shadow:
two Pierrots

They fell away, drifting down in currents
to the ocean floor, and the ocean’s voice,
the echo of its power, was silenced
by summer heat as they rose again
far above the waves

At Key Biscayne Mira watched the city
sail away; a ship moved slowly on the horizon,
dragging time by its heels; the ruins of Vizcaya
vibrated before brazen hotels and mansions;
she belonged to both worlds and neither

Sunlight fell in a glittering torrent on the bay,
a river of gold pieces spilling out before her,
and she hoped the streaming water
would carry away all her sorrow,
all her father’s and her friends’ losses

She wanted to see far into the future,
and so she asked Will to meet her
at the Cape Florida lighthouse

The past was a treasured pearl,
enclosed in a rough exterior,
preserved in both of them,
but she wondered what would happen
when the past was exposed to the light

She found the old lighthouse
with the fateful ease of a dream;
Will was not there; Mira felt the cold air
of outrunning a dream and turned back,
leaving the past behind

Will was standing by the door
of the Lightkeeper’s cottage;
and they laughed at life’s design
overriding their miscue
and overwriting their narrative

They walked by gardens of fruit, fish,
fowl, flowers, and people ripening,
drying in the sun; a lingering effervescence
mingled with the scent of the open sea
challenging and beckoning

At dawn, Will left her side
and walked to the window,
and Mira saw his shadow passing
as he always saw hers, a vision
moving into the future

Will said as she joined him:
If you see the river, you will also see
the marina and the bridge,
white boats and jade-green water,
born from the morning sea fog.

On the beach, seed-topped grass
grew on dunes, and parallel lines
of seaweed followed the curving coast

With all things sailing they navigated
by the stars, flowing into ports of call,
sailing away with renewed purpose,
sailing with grief and ecstasy
into the fold and mantle of the sea

Sandy and Laurel moved to the island
and renovated the beach house;
Sandy learned from a retired sea captain
to pilot a charter boat, for sport fishing
and tourists seeking the Gulf’s bounty

One day they joined the old captain
on his boat; going out to sea
until there was only water and sky,
and with friends and family gathered on deck
Laurel and Sandy were married

At the beach house, Sandy held Laurel,
watching a storm brew proud and wild,
and in her body an ingrained strength
matched his own; where tides crossed
waves collided, water devils spun to shore

There were broad shimmering ecstasies,
fibers twisting to the sun’s scorching eye;
and the center of gravity became many
centers of gravity; the storm revolved,
and the core transformed

They were spinning in the eye of the storm
as clouds wove a veil, cool light sank
into their eyes, lilies and breaking waves,
and they were one with the line and flow
of the world

In time, through time, beyond time
they had become matter, dark matter,
liquid, vapor, fire and pure energy,
connected by whatever it is that arranges things
to the other raptured beings around them

In time they had a daughter:
Dia, said Laurel, a new day,
as Sandy cradled the child in his arms

Children of the Moon, Chapter 17

Children of the Moon
childrenofmoonlighteffectsThe bus stopped at Port Charlotte;
Mira closed her eyes: she was sailing
on a white skiff with one white sail, skimming over the ocean in gentle blue
until a rolling sea fog wrapped around her

She saw white columns rise in the mist,
stone pillars of a temple: bones, and the water
life-blood; they formed a body,
the body of a people through which
she had always been traveling

Punta Gorda, Cape Coral, Pine Island,
the highway crossed the Everglades:
on this quiet day Mira heard alligators barking

What lay beyond came to her sight:
islands of cypress and Brazilian pepper,
ragged stands of pond apple,
stalked by tawny Florida panthers,
and invaded by pythons and monitor lizards

Small villages passed by;
and as she traveled, each place was more familiar;
the bus stopped at a town
and she sprang from her seat to land
on a parking lot paved with crushed shells

The moon was bold in the daytime sky
and sounds in the high range whisked away;
a tall, beautiful woman in a colorful rickrack skirt
and black hair swept high over her forehead
strode toward her with a smile

Evening came, and Will walked home,
down the road to the old ranch house;
his mother was leading a chestnut horse
from the barn, and he felt the air knocked
from his lungs

In this moment the veil was lifted:
his mother had been tending the horses
and his father working the ranch
without Sandy, without him;
he had left alone with their grief

He kept walking because the impetus
to go home was too strong
for even guilt to stop

He turned up the horseshoe drive
and his mother stood stone still
and then she screamed, looping the reins
over a fence post and running to him:
Will! It’s you.

A Ford F250 roared up as Will embraced
his mother; his father put a hand on his back:
Are you home for good?
and Will nodded yes:
I’m here.

Will wrote to Sandy, and visited Morris Rubra:
I want to help Sandy;
Is there anything I can do?

Morris Rubra handed Will news clippings:
I’ve been looking at cases all over the state
for similarities to this crime. Can you read these?
Will smiled in appreciation; settling in
at the ranch, he began to research legal cases

Evening came; the sunset was a riot of flame;
Laurel’s uncle opened Grandma Wing’s bungalow
to the gulf breeze and murmurs of flow and flux,
and Laurel moved through the rooms,
feeling at ease, as if she were coming home

The sun rose and the ocean gained color;
Laurel heard the waves resounding in the sand;
a cloud’s shadow rolled over
and she sat up with a start,
alone on the lap of the beach

What happens when we grow up?
she wondered, with a whirlpool
of pain in her chest,
what happened to all the things
we were going to do?

The sea was crashing into its borders,
a deep inner roar that unified the shore
and in time she became rooted in the sand,
made mellow by storms, swaying
with the trade winds:

Spun from light in silken threads,
melting into heated warm colors,
patterns of movement, a voice acapello
in tune with the musical revue
of the universe

Mira coursed back to the Gulf of Mexico,
crossing by boat to Sanibel Island,
the soft engine of time in the waves

In the early 1700s people left Georgia
to find a Gulf Coast safe harbor;
arriving by the 1760s in the old home
of the Calusa, they lived with and married
the Spanish, fishing and sailing the waters

Many years later, during the Seminole wars
the “Spanish Indians” sought refuge
in the Myakka Basin
and went south to the Everglades
to join the Miccosukee

From the hotel Mira could see miles
of glittering white sand littered with shells;
cumulus clouds spun off to form a wall
of pearl gray and pink light, delicate
marble at the horizon

Gazing across the streaming sea
she felt herself floating
in a small light boat of history

Far out over the ocean a cloudbank
surged toward shore, battleship grey lines
of rain slanted down

The ocean cringed and darkened
beneath the onslaught;
incandescent blues and greens
measured out time before the storm
with increasing delicacy

Evening came, wingbeats, wingbeats
over the sand; Mira threw open her arms
to welcome the storm’s fierce blast:
despite the shores of war and seas of loss,
she felt a favoring wind

To read the preceding chapters, please begin with the Prologue

Children of the Moon, Chapter 16: Twilight Voyagers


Laurel gazed out the window, a thin line
of love and pain cycling between memories:
Grandma Wing had died of a stroke

Uncle Joe, packing up, pointed to a box:
These are for you;
and he handed her a book; on the flyleaf
she spotted her grandmother’s name:
These all belonged to Grandma Wing?

Most of them, yes; some belonged
to her husband and some to her parents;
they’re yours now.

Aunt Ida came in from the garden:
She left us the house on the beach;
we can go there weekends and holidays;
I know you’ll love it, Laurel,
and it will be a good way to remember her.

Days later, Laurel and Mira drove to see
a renegade circus act on a ranch;
arriving at the ranch house a shiver
ran through them and they turned to one another
with expressions of horror and dismay

Mira thought of the widow, Blanca Cors
who had since moved away. Did anyone
remember? So many people had been incensed,
but now seemed to have forgotten
their frenzied rage.

Two Royal Poinciana trees were united
in one crimson canopy above a sea-green lawn,
and a private road swung up a gentle slope
where people were making their way
to a corral where men worked on a high wire

The sun was eclipsed by the earth
and all around the world was transformed
into the charred remains of an interplanetary fire

Spotlights switched on, focused on the wire
sixty feet above; there was no net:
this was pure circus, greater than reality;
and the performers were in their element,
ascending the ladder to the platform

A man walked out a few feet before turning back;
in a moment, he reappeared on a bicycle,
riding across as the crowd held its breath;
from the far side the man returned, pedaling
the bike backwards as the crowd cheered

Two men walked onto the tightrope
holding balancing poles; one kneeled
while the other stepped onto his shoulders;
as they straightened up, a gust of wind
knocked them off balance

Laurel fought to keep her balance,
feeling the drift of the universe below her feet,
as one man caught the wire with one hand,
his pole slicing into the moonless night,
and the other swung around to a sitting position

The men regained their balance
and Mira turned away to see the house
lit by spotlights, and in that instant she knew
that someone knew, more than one person knew
what had happened to Blanca Cors

At daybreak, Mira came outside
to find Solis lying on the porch,
body swollen and eyes glazed;
she saw the wound on his side:

A young veterinarian examined him
and returned, shaking her head:
I’m sorry, he was bitten by a rattlesnake;
and Mira said: He came home to me,
and I wasn’t there to help him.

The vet told her gently:
There was probably nothing you could do;
he’s unconscious and won’t suffer.
Mira had known the danger,
but never been afraid before

Bowing her head to the hammering sun,
she sought refuge in the forest
and borderlands

Nothing was the same; birdsong faded,
pine logs rotted and leaves moldered,
the air was stifling; fear disturbed
her balance, goaded her into watchfulness
for the mistake, the flaw in the flow of life

Everything dissolved in a single moment;
she gave herself up to the absolute
sensation of standing still

But an inexorable pendulum swung
and she found herself moving again;
passing the field with its one tall pine,
she glimpsed something out of place,
drawing her into its immediate space

Her eyes fixed on the line, sodden
and sedimentary, like lava thrown
from a volcano taking on a separate life

A huge rattlesnake was sunning itself,
a long tunnel into oblivion in the solid field;
everything around it disappears into it
in pools of misery,
shocks of sorrow

The snake was wound out on the ground
in long graceful curves, but still able to strike;
its sixteen rattles reverberated in the grass

Coming closer, observing its apathy,
she saw that it was wounded,
torn along one side

Mira knew she could kill it,
but she realized there were two killers
on the field that day,
and Solis was more likely the attacker;
the snake had done no more than defend itself

She was horrified by the dual tragedy
and left the field of combat,
the hot dry baking world, the silent agony,
deep in a compassion for all
living beings that must die

A giant sun touched down, as if it would roll
across the land and engulf the world in fire;
Mira threw her belongings in a worn bag;
her aunt’s car rumbled to a stop by the porch
and Mira took flight

She held her breath:
her mother or one of her sisters or brothers
might see her and call her back;
then again, her aunt said as she climbed in,
she might not be missed.

The highway was filled with twilight voyagers,
tourists and haulers and others on the move,
spinning out a high-pitched whistle
as they broke the sound barrier
outside Mira’s motel window

She was near the airport, and could see
the earth ascend to swallow planes
without a sound, and then they reappeared
with a roar on bald runways
huge against the sky

In the moonlight, a tropical plant was glowing;
and Mira felt alone with another life,
a life going on inside her that traveled ahead,
a light throwing back a shadow
of the person she would become

Illustration by Forrest S. Clark

To read the preceding chapters, please go to the Prologue.