Most of the songbirds have flown from the northern states, but poet Judith Barrington, a keen observer of what is around her and us, reminds us that there is always something to hear. We welcome her back on this Poetry Sunday as we listen in to what she is thinking.



Crows startle the clouds

with grievances never resolved

and warnings blurted into thin air.


Once in a while, the cries of all those who tried to survive

pour from the funnels of their throats.

No wonder we never really listen.


Like most animals, crows tell the truth:

working hard to penetrate our tiny tubular ears,

they cackle on telephone lines while we watch TV.


Once I did listen to a crow, but even when I had heard

his whole story, there was nothing I could do.

Next, I thought, I’d have to listen to squirrels and coyotes.


I like to think I deal with my share of rotten truths

but I couldn’t bear to kneel down in damp grass

and listen to the hedgehog or the mole.


Reprinted with the poet’s permission



Poet and memoirist Judith Barrington has lived in Portland, Oregon, ever since 1976, when she moved from her native England. She has published three collections of poetry, a prize-winning memoir, Lifesaving, and a text on writing the literary memoir that is used in the United States, Australia, and Europe. Her most recent poetry is collected in a new chapbook, Postcard from the Bottom of the Sea. Her most recent full-length book is Horses and the Human Soul, about which reviewer Barbara Drake, writing in Calyx, said: “These stunning poems find moral high ground in the world of nature and animals without falsifying that world.”

Barrington’s memoir, Lifesaving (Eighth Mountain Press, 2000), won the Lambda Book Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. She is well known as a writer and much sought-after as a teacher. She is a faculty member of the low-residency program at the University of Alaska at Anchorage and a web mentor for the University of Minnesota. She offers workshops at many conferences and writing events in the U.S. as well as in England and Spain. In 2009, the Oregon State Library selected Horses and the Human Soul for “150 Books for the Sesquicentennial” (from among books by Oregon writers, 1836–2009)

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