Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form?
What month and year did you start writing this poem? October, 2012
How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?)
of these angled white birds, the way
they filled the skies above our rented
house in Mexico, I had to first anoint
a camel spider in great chuffs of poisonous
oils, unfair really, being trapped as he
was in the terraza corner writhing like
the possessed I remember from my child-
hood church, when I believed men could
call God down from the rafters. And there
were also the dogs at night to deal with,
their barbed cries stringing the air
like broken Christmas lights, tuneless
and savage, unnerving in their confident,
dreamless yaps, envious of their brother
coyote running free in the desert, chained
only to his boundlessness, leaping brush
and cacti and the tiny scorpions which glow
under a black light like absinthe, creatures
we fear the most when strolling our garden’s
dahlia or slipping on our unchecked shoes.
But the birds, stork-like and mute, moving
above in clumps like highway traffic: first
four, then three, then the lone flyer I feel
the most for as he has no one to share his day.
They are dependable every 12 hours, a clock
punching numbness glued to their expressions,
if that’s what birds have, expressions.
The common sparrows will go rustling
in the nearby bamboo, gossiping the green
leaves past frenzy, but these white ones,
their wispy legs dragging useless behind
them, glide silently above us, joyless
and sober, forcing our daughters to point
while splashing in the pool, marvel these
bright tufts made brighter by the desert’s
retreating light, all going home, all done
for the day. Yes, that’s right: Snowy Egret.
His first book for children, Heart Flight, (Cedar Grove) is forthcoming next spring. Locke has received the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Award, state grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council & the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, & poetry residencies from Fundación Valparaiso (Spain) and PAMAR (Mexico City). He lives in the Adirondacks & teaches poetry in person at North Country Community College & online at The Poetry Barn.