A Poem for the Coffee Hour on Dr. MLK, Jr. Day

Let's not forget to do what we must with both strength and love.

Let’s not forget to do what we must with both strength and love.

Photo by Marion S. Trikosko

“Coffee, Cream With Civil Rights”

(c) Kerri Nicole McCaffrey, 2013

Originally published in the book, In the Valley of Glow Trees, Create Space, 2013, by Kerri Nicole McCaffrey.

The vase was cobalt
and the flower, yellow
sunlight streaming explosions
on iridescent things–
a butterfly crafted
of peacock wings.
And love is light
and light is fair
so I have been crossing
ruby bridges
pondering
Rosa Parks
and Martin Luther King, Jr.
wondering—
did they sit in their kitchens
clay cup of bitterness

turned to coffee light and sweet
trying to stomach despair?
Federal Marshals, high pressure hoses, shots fired
from grassy knolls.
Or did they sit quietly
and linger
a tad longer
in the filtered light
the glitter dust
whispering, “deliver us”
from evil
as they sunk daffodils in blue vases
went out and placed themselves in harm’s way
tamped with equality
willing to be exploded—
scintillant slivers and silver shrapnel—?

Christ!

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Posted in Civil Rights Poetry, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Poetry High school, Dr. Martin Luther King Poem, Jr. Poetry, Poetry of Civil Rights | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Memorial Day Tribute Poem

Memorial Day, 2014   2012-07-03_17-52-25_4111.jpg

     This is a poem (in video form)  I wrote entitled, “Memorial Day”.  I am grateful for those who died so that I may live in freedom.  Also, as radio host Mike Broomhead mentioned–we should surely remember the honorable way in which the fallen lived their lives.

     Thank you to all of them–and thank you to those still serving.

Peace,

Kerri

“Memorial Day” poem can be found at, http://www.amazon.com/In-Valley-Glow-Trees-McCaffrey/dp/1482031892.  It appears in my book, “In the Valley of Glow Trees.”

Posted in Memorial Day Poem, Memorial Day Poem Elementary Students, Memorial Day Tribute, New Jersey VFW Memorial Day 2014, Patriotic Poetry, Poetry of NJ | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In The Valley of Glow Trees Poetry Book Released in Paperback!

In the Valley of Glow Trees

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/192-9728059-6805715?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=in%20the%20valley%20of%20glow%20trees

I have just released my poetry book, In the Valley of Glow Trees, in Paperback!  It is available at Amazon.com,  Barnes and Noble.com, and for a limited time, at Mendham Books, in Mendham, NJ.  At 208 pages it is a bargain for the price.  If you love nature poetry, and finding both yourself and your source–then this book is for you.  I have posted a bit of the write-up on the book below.  Enjoy!  Kerri

Poet Kerri McCaffrey’s first book is effervescent with color and hope and song. You will breathe easily as you read. Kerri’s words are alive with her childhood experiences, as when she describes the legendary woman in white who fell to her death from a ledge in Sleepy Hollow:  “her dark hair/ like feathers/ her scream bright orange—/a flaming oriole/ to a synesthete.” Kerri writes from both sides of the gender line, having undergone sweeping changes in her life.  These were moves which required daring—by this world’s standards—but Kerri knew there was something more at play—something beautiful and very close that most sense but cannot see—a just beyond, a thin veil of separation—and she trusted this as she made her decisions:  “…today is lovelier than ever/ and ever /and my soul has broken the body’s water/I see the world as so fair today/that I may die/I am close to seeing the other side/to seeing ghosts and God.”      Kerri’s poetry and images flow from a clear well, fed by her deep belief in the sanctity of nature discovered by spending countless hours in wild places—far from cars, cell phones, and safety.  She believes that our Higher Power is aware of us while we are here and is, “…anxious to use booming rockets/and end this exile/propel us home—/but we looked at earth in contemplation/at the silent wood sorrel/blooming from the loam.”   Travel with Kerri McCaffrey and experience the breathless beauty of her journey—the reverence she has for new life.  You will read about tornadoes, magic, wilderness, the genders, baseball, hope, animals, the passing of time—and teaching.  Kerri has taught for twenty years, and has a special place in her heart for those who struggle with learning—to wit, this line from a poem praising Helen Keller’s tutor, Annie Sullivan:  “You taught her to place her feet on the bumpy road and walk—/her fingers on the bumpy writing and read—/to place her hands on your thumping heart and hope.”      Today, Kerri has two children and lives in a secluded cottage at forest’s edge.  It is the perfect place to play with words, to make the inherent beauty of the world tangible through metaphor and simile, and to continue trying to follow the inspiring road of Frost—which has made, “…all the difference.”  Kerri has found serenity;  may you find it, too.  “If I should die now/I want to start from here/nascent/and planted in a field of lilacs/watered with echoes.”

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Sleepy Hollow Poem/Legend–Raven Rock

Raven Rock, on the Hawthorne, NY, side of Buttermilk Hill.

Raven Rock, on the Hawthorne, NY, side of Buttermilk Hill.

“Some mention was also made of the woman in white who haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having  perished there in the snow.” (Irving, Washington.  “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” or The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.)

IMG_20131018_201033_144

I grew up on Beverly Road, in Hawthorne, New York.  It was a blessed and idyllic childhood.  The kids in our neighborhood were able to explore Buttermilk Hill–home of the famous Rockefeller estate–Kykuit.  There were midnight swims in the lakes and reservoirs at the top of  Buttermilk, in Pocantico Hills.  There was the Dominican Convent in our backyard which contained acres and acres of golden grasses, crabapple orchards, and tasty raspberries.  Most of all, we were steeped in the tales and legends of Washington Irving.  I first heard of  Raven Rock from my teachers when I was very young and a student at Hawthorne Elementary School back in 1973.  With such inculcation, by the time kids on my block were fifteen, many of us could tell the local tales–and tell them with aplomb.

Noted WPA artist, George Alexander Picken had two paintings displayed in the lobby of our school (since taken down), and we saw them every day as we entered school.  One painting’s subject was of the “dark glen at Raven Rock”, while the other was of the Headless Horsemen of the Hollow.  How fascinating that a place all the kids in our neighborhood liked to hike to and “hang out at” back in the late 60’s and early 70’s (Raven Rock), actually played a small role in Washington Irving’s famous tale!  I listened intently as my third grade teacher lined us up in front of the murals one day and told us the legend within the legend that was the tale of Raven Rock.  “Hawthornites” have their own takes on the legends that have been passed down to us from our school teachers, coaches, and parents (I will tell more about these in upcoming posts).  For now, I hope you enjoy my poem, “The Dark Glen at Raven Rock.”  I want to tell you the story of this enchanted area so that you, too, can love and cherish it!

Kerri 🙂

“The Dark Glen at Raven Rock”

A Colorful George Picken Mural Which Hung in My Elementary School

(c) Kerri McCaffrey

…a haunting woman in white

chasing a raven in the snow

windswept wisps of clouds

in the blue night.

In such cold chaos

bird became beacon,

alighting on a branch

which grew up from the abyss

under it lay a cauldron of snow,

a trap door to a free fall,

and precipitousness.

And so she reached,

her body a shapely vase

a wild-eyed gardener

choosing a black flower.

She didn’t realize

that this was her last step

her final hour,

for below the snow’s soft silence

lay shale and granite

a rock-hard bottom.

We all knew

how Washington Irving

had it end

but that is where Picken’s brush

differed from author’s pen:

in the mural

she never died

never had the vertigo,

the butterflies she would have felt

as the forest floor

orphaned her feet

her dark hair like feathers

her scream bright orange

a flaming oriole

to a synesthete.

Each morning

we were greeted

by this mural–

a quick pause in the lobby

a sigh

as we foresaw her next step–

such dramatic irony.

And years later

I still imagine

but differently;

perhaps she didn’t die

perhaps she was like me,

on the precipice

in switching winds

when, from taffeta dress,

came wings.

Looking up from where the woman would have fallen.  Can you say vertigo?

Looking up from where the woman would have fallen to. Can you say, “vertigo”?

A small trail on the grounds which used to comprise the Kyquit property.  Kids from Beverly Road would sometimes hang out near here...such memories!

A small trail on the grounds which used to comprise the Kykuit property. Kids from Beverly Road/Tuxedo Place would sometimes hang out near here…such memories!

Everyone was a storyteller in Hawthorne, NY.

Everyone was a storyteller in Hawthorne, NY.

Me, giving a performance of, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (sort of), to 5th graders where I teach.

Me, acting out legends from the area of Sleepy Hollow (to 5th graders where I teach).

The beauty of Pocantico Hills is on display as I complete a hike to Raven Rock--as I have done since I was little.

The beauty of Pocantico Hills is on display as I complete a hike to Raven Rock–as I have done since I was little.

Posted in Hawthorne NY History, Pocantico Hills NY, Poetry of Sleepy Hollow, Raven Rock Sleepy Hollow, Sleepy Hollow's Spirits | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poem, “If I Found Water on Mars” by Kerri McCaffrey

If I Found Water on Mars

© 2011, by Kerri McCaffrey

        Planetary Water

Photo by Kerri McCaffrey, (c)

If I found water on Mars,

breaking through

the red crust

of Martian soil—

with my NASA

pick axe

(as if lancing some boil)—

water turning

the red sands white—

my nation watching

from Mothership Earth

like a hungry pride

as their domestic lion turned wild

initiated her first kill—

the media lauding,

“Isn’t she valiant!”

I would kneel and pray

a prayer

for that planet

(as a compassionate alien),

like some astronaut priest

beseeching heaven’s

mercy

on that place’s soul—

and other points

as salient.

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A Red Fox in a Dust of Snow (or, Walk–Bark–Walk)

Photo by Kerri McCaffrey

Chester, NJ.  March 4, 2012–this post originally published earlier this winter under, thepoetseyes.com

Foxes love to travel along–or alongside–old farm walls like this one in Sussex County, NJ. It makes for much easier travel!

Note to Readers Before Reading the Rest of This Blog:  Here is a more recent fox vocalization than the one found later in this post.  I have seen this fox and it is a very beautiful one…red with some faint black splotches on its coat; it has mostly black fur behind its ears.  It visits my yard almost every day.  I hope it will bring its cubs by soon!   Please wait until 34 seconds into the sound byte where you will hear it begin to vocalize.  It is worth the wait!

12-03-04-01-22-19 Fox Call march 4

It was the last night with the Christmas tree up. With its glow, the living room looked as cozy as a Currier and Ives painting–a quiet cottage and my boys, in bed.  If you are a parent, this is peaceful time as I am sure you know.  So, I decided to write poetry. I write best at night—it clears my head. It is my trusted time.  To my reading and writing, I am a loyal friend.

Last night, composing on the maple wood of my kitchen table—and with only the occasional hum of the fridge breaking the sweet silence, I seemed to have a wild friend join me. It was 12:30 a.m.  The little barks seemed to start down in the sluice and then  follow the animal trail through the thick brush.  Beside his barking–everything else last night was a delightful hush.

Oh, we had seen him during the day. My sons and I saw him peeking shyly from behind an eighty foot locust tree which had fallen during Hurricane Irene; now it serves as a fence line in my backyard. Doing the dishes, I spotted the little critter playing hide and seek—I could tell he could hear each clink of silverware and glass, so I paused and called the boys to watch. A few seconds later, he “slinked” off into the brush and headed for the spruce stand down below.

So now some twelve hours later, he began coming down the deer trail. Fox often seem to scream like a lady in extreme pain—then they stop, walk a hundred yards or so—and do it again. Local legend has it that the screams are bobcats, but until I can confirm that, I have to believe that the “screaming lady sounds” we have heard are fox; my boys saw this phenomenon  once—a fox, sitting in the blue hue of snow– screaming at the moon. That is evidence enough for me. I don’t doubt that bobcats scream, too—but until I can see one with my own ears… (oh, such synesthesia!).

But–back to tonight. I heard the cutest barks…like a little King James terrier—and he was following the same pattern, walk—vocalize—walk. However, tonight his vocalizations were barks. I have him recorded for you here: (double click, and be patient it is worth it–remember, he is walking, then barking, then walking…so you have to hang on!).

12-01-15-01-41-37

The initial noise you hear is the squeaky back door opening. I think you will find him really interesting. Of course, try to picture the moon out, thin clouds slicing by the moon, and about a half inch of fluffy silent snow; it was a bucolic scene—our little rusty friend putting on a show.  I can always trust his punctuality at day’s end!

If you are loyal to your poetry, your poetry comes to you!

Peace, KM

Posted in Uncategorized, Wildlife Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Hunting Coyotes in NJ is a Bad Idea

Bravo New Jersey!  Let’s give the hunters a special permit to shoot coyotes and take away one of the only checks on the huge deer population which is currently destroying our forests.  I live in Chester, NJ, right among the woods and fields.  In four years here, I have only seen two coyotes near my property–and they didn’t come to eat my children, but to kill a fawn at a time when they were probably looking to feed their pups.  Without coyotes, look for our New Jersey forests to continue to degrade, for our quality of life to continue to decline, and for our exposure to Lyme ticks to continue to rise.  You go, New Jersey!

A recent article on New Jersey.com quoted one hunter, eager to start shooting coyotes, as saying, “Coyotes have one of the most ugly calls you’ll ever hear. It sounds like something that’s dying and laughing at the same time.”

(http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/12/new_jersey_coyotes.html )

I disagree and think most people in America would, too. Coyotes have a beautiful call—a series of yaps and howls, often ending with a breathtakingly impressive final note. But I won’t blabber my opinion to sell newspapers and get my way—I will give you proof. Read my poem about coyotes right here in Northern New Jersey and listen to the coyotes which I tape-recorded  in the spruce stand behind my cottage (see my recent WordPress post, “My First Yawp”–on the sidebar–11/27/11).

I think you will agree that their call is a welcome bit of the wild in a state known for its sprawl and turnpike odors.

A few years ago, I read of the resignation of one of New Jersey’s top conservation officials in a major state paper. In the article, he complained he was leaving to take a post down south—that New Jersey’s forests were too far gone to help. With an understory depleted by a ravenous deer population, and invasive plant species (i.e., Japanese barberry) poised to pounce in this new-found space, he noted that New Jersey’s forests were indeed in trouble. This trend continues today. New Jersey’s deer populations are exploding and the shrapnel seems to be slicing off the understory of once plush woods. Making matters worse, white tail deer don’t seem to eat Japanese barberry. Now, NJ has announced that there will be a coyote hunt. Does anyone see a problem with the logic here?

However, before I tread any further, I want to share a quick story. One bright morning in the spring of 2009, I was getting dressed in my cottage and happened to be looking out the window; that is when I heard the bleating of a fawn—clearly distressed. What I observed next was macabre, eye-opening—and truly, the natural order of things. A coyote—moving like a whirlwind across my lawn—chased a fawn into the brush by the edge of the woods. The fawn then changed directions, cutting back across the lawn—but the coyote kept going straight ahead, diving into the forest. As the fawn ran under a walnut tree and up a hill toward the wood’s edge, a second coyote took up the pursuit, efficiently herding the terrified fawn into the waiting jaws of the original chaser. From my front steps, I watched the two coyotes rip and tear at this fawn, which in turn snapped at them as best it could (see my poem, below), until the coyotes grabbed at its neck, tore in guttural growls, and ended the fight. The mother doe watched the whole episode from my lawn—no more than ten feet from me—while the father buck tried valiantly to defend its fawn; the coyotes grew impatient and lunged at him—viciously—until he reluctantly backed away.

This fawn was healthy and fast—it was not a sick animal—and yet, the coyotes easily, “took him out.”  It was a natural pruning of the population–and it was needed.

Now with our forests dying, we want to reduce the populations of the only major NJ predator of the white-tailed (or Virginia) deer! Hmm, how strong is our hunting lobby in New Jersey, anyway? They must be gargantuan!  Yet, our forests are dying and I refuse to be a bystander while we help expedite this process by killing coyotes. According to Joan Ehrenfeld in a NY/NJ Trail Conference.Org, document:

Our forests lack the seedling and sapling trees that
provide the forest with continuity and the ability
to recover from wind and ice, insects and pathogens.
And, because deer munch on herbs as well as woody
plants, they eat the native wildflowers as voraciously
as they do young trees and shrubs, greatly depleting their populations.
(http://www.nynjtc.org/news/deer-impact-local-forests)

Of course, in college philosophy class, I remember the basic reasoning which our professors  taught us in order to recognize an illogical argument—and conversely—to prove something to be true (of course, something that was not absurd). It went like this: “If A—then B. Okay—A—therefore, B!” So let’s look at it this way. If our forest understory is largely decimated because of deer overpopulation (A), then we shouldn’t kill their major natural predators (B). Clearly then, it can be shown that our forests are dying because deer populations are out of control—therefore—we shouldn’t be shooting coyotes.

It’s pretty simple to see. It also seems pretty simple to see that somebody is influencing the brainpower of our conservation and elected officials (no, that would never happen!). And if this is not the case, do we have incompetence in some of our conservation and elected officials? Is that possible? (both sarcasm and rhetoric, intended) This is not an accusation, but an assumption based on their actions.

Why in G-d’s holy world are we hunting coyotes? Have coyotes been attacking humans in New Jersey at record rates? Have people been dying in New Jersey from vicious attacks? Are coyotes roaming our streets in large packs, threatening our very livelihoods? And while there have been some attacks, given New Jersey’s population, they have been few and far between.  So, the answer to my earlier questions of course has to be “no”—a resounding no, no, no, no, no!

However, if I throw the following questions out there, the answers from people who live in or near New Jersey’s parks and forests would all be clarion, “Yeses!” Are the deer overpopulated? Do we need more deer control—preferably, by their natural enemies? Is Lyme disease a major health problem in NJ and are deer a major carrier of this tick vector? Do coyotes improve your quality of life as they howl beautifully under the full moon—mixing their wildness with a full moon’s milky light?

New Jersey’s coyote hunt will have huge repercussions for our parks and forests in terms of understory depletion, will lessen our quality of life by taking away a bit of the wild right here among us, and quite possibly, will enable Lyme disease to continue to spread unchecked.  Lyme disease is an expensive disease to fight (especially in advanced stages), and will eventually drive up the cost of healthcare for all New Jerseyans.

Perhaps New Jersey’s hunters should stick to shooting deer and not help New Jersey to shoot itself in its collective foot.

The hunter quoted at the top of this blog said that coyotes have an ugly howl, one that sounds both like dying and laughing at the same time. I will tell you what that noise might really be—the sound of our forests and coyotes dying away—and other states laughing at the inept management of our deer population and natural resources.

Peace!
KM

A Fawn’s Last Day in the Woods
© 2009, by Kerri McCaffrey

From my pretty yellow bedroom—
all fresh painted and sponged,
I heard you honking,
as you were separated from your parents—
in the morning’s wet woods.
Last night, I had been awakened by their
howling in the distant meadow
under the still clear skies,
and now at dawn, you were chosen.
They stalked on secret paws, then, lunged.
How your heart must have been beating
in this moment of Darwinian truth.
Eyes panicked, hoofs tearing wet turf, bleating—
cut and torn by brambles and blackberries,
sailing soft waves of fern—
then tackled
where you gave your feeble defense:
lifting up your head, nipping—
So you let off your last alarm,
sounding your sobbing pain,
as rapacious predators
cut and tore—
with guttural growling,
hungrily gripping your small frame—
pinning you,
as you bled in the berries.

Posted in Nature Poems, Wildlife Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments