An owl’s call buffs the clouds at dawn
to greet another day of conflict.
It’s a he said,
she said, nobody said but
somebody heard kind of procedure,
with the loudest voices making
the weakest case, even when
thunder rolls down
one side of the mountain
and showers begin with innuendo
while truth and beauty
wait their turn
to testify. There goes a lie, flying
up among the goldfinches,
and coming down
to where a hummingbird
finds shelter underneath
a leaf; a lie whose plumage is
beguiling; a sparrow
some believe to be
the Yellow grosbeak never
seen before this far north, but
brighter than the facts
could ever be.


From a hummingbird dawn through
raven clouds at noon
to a long, wet
afternoon with finches
seeking refuge from a storm
the questioning continues in its own
slow time, edging
forward by the word
to the point of no denial. The mountain
lies at rest beneath

a changing sky, darkening
with each predatory hour
during which the factions face
off; suits against suits, thrust
and parry, black against
white, with phrases twisting
in the wind as it returns
for one more sweep
before proceedings close, the lizard
on the rear wall runs

into hiding
and the grackles who arrived for oranges
fly back to the night
with shreds of lightning
in their beaks.


A distant pack awakens,
heads tipped back
and all in chorus up among
the petroglyphs whose whorls
are fingerprints
time left behind on the rocks.

A tree doesn’t hear the owl when he grips
a branch from which
his soft calls travel
from warm nights to the cold
ones, while every season
is darkness for the taking
and sleep is a high tide
of worry with crimes
and misdemeanors floating
on the swell. What next, the dreaming
mind inquires: will
the aches that move in
at midnight still be there at dawn?
One o’clock has a bobcat’s heart.

Two o’clock ticks
by along the empty streets.
Three o’clock leaves paw prints
on the driveways. It’s quiet
but for the gnawing
of teeth through
insomniac nerves.

David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications online and in print, and often reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. The Bitter Oleander Press published Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant. A new book, Speech Scroll, a long-poem, is out from Cholla Needles in Joshua Tree, California. He recently took up watercoloring again, after twenty dry years.