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Cynthia Anderson

Questions in Spring


There’s a buzz

in my stomach 


exactly like the whir 

of a hummingbird, 


the one who follows me 

around the yard, 


who drops and waits 

at face level even 


when I’m inside. 

I don’t notice the nest 


until she shows me, 

hidden in a juniper, 


grey as the branch 

it’s attached to, 


wrapped in spider webs. 

She lets me watch 


her incubate—

later, hovers while 


two tiny beaks 

point straight up 


like thumbtacks, 

ready for nectar 


and insects, riding 

the wind in that 


miniature basket, 

safe as Moses 


in bulrushes. 

When the time 


of nurturing passes, 

will these new lives 


remember the tree 

and return? 


And will I be 

their witness?




At twilight, 

a methodical cricket 

launches his sawing 

vibrato. I can’t quite say 

his rhythm is unvaried, 

because after awhile, 

there’s a slight skip, 

like an old scratched record, 

or a singer’s sharp breath 

after a long note—

but the song is the same, 

night after night,

a vow of the love 

he hopes to entice, 

the odds fueling 

his persistence. 

What I know I learn 

by listening. Every cell 

in my body wants

to tell what it means 

to be bereft—

not to live in a box, 

the lid locked, 

but to sing, 

sing that heartbreak 

into blackness, 

my territory, 

my sustenance—

calling, calling 

my love to me.



When there’s hardly any light left,

and heat bends to a cooling breeze, 

the quail arrive, making their way 

to the stand of pines on the rise.

One by one, they flap and jump, 

sloppily, to the low branches, 

then walk the length of the limbs 

and hop upwards, until they cluster 

in the crown, defying the gravity 

of their days on the ground, 

swaying as the boughs sway, 

sorting their pecking order 

with a flurry of remonstrances.

Settled, they join in a quiet murmur, 

vespers that bring out the stars.

The quail are gone before sunup.

I wonder how they leave—

a gradual, stairway descent, 

or a fell swoop through the dark?

It’s their daily reckoning, 

forsaking the arms of safety 

when the time is right—a risk 

made ordinary by repetition, 

the peril of being alive.

What the Hawk Said


Let fall a feather 

for someone who needs it.


Watch it spin the air 

like a shuttle of fate, 


and land among thorns—

frayed, yet decipherable.


Weave banded vanes 

to make flight possible


then shed, piece by piece, 

and grow new—



between sky and earth, 


alert for the barest 



Reach out your hand—

I’ll spare you.

Tableau Vivant


This high ledge with a view to the west 

holds a grinding stone like a fallen door—


rose-hued granite worn smooth from the work

of many hands. Just there, a flake of green jasper


on sand—traces of lives in the fullness 

of the land, before ceremony circles were 


scattered, before grasses and water retreated, 

before the boulders grew silent—no one calling 


to far-off companions by striking rocks 

or throwing an echo skyward. We scan 


the archipelago—stone outcrops in a sea 

of creosote and cholla, blackbrush and Joshua trees— 


and a cinder cone with its mask of serenity.

White Pelicans

It’s a radiant sky, 

and the pelicans ply it—


they soar as they go, 

unerring in flight. 


From a great height, 

the flock’s ebb and flow 


spins on an axis 

of farewell and return—


rising to crescendo, 

each wingspan greater 


than the height of a man, 

lofting over deserts toward 


landlocked waters to feed 

and raise their young. Above 


the haze of the Salton Sea, 

they open like envelopes 


edged in black—tidings 

of deaths and resurrections 


beyond reach. I look back 

while the highway bears me 


away, trace their whirl

through a portal in time.

Knot Magazine

Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her award-winning poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Askew, Dark Matter, Lummox, and Whale Road. She is the author of five collections—In the Mojave, Desert Dweller, Mythic Rockscapes, and Shared Visions I and II. She frequently collaborates with her husband, photographer Bill Dahl. Cynthia co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens.

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