On a warm early-spring evening
I linger at the table on the screen porch.
The smell of the river mingles damp earth
with the fresh scents of shoots,
the first buttercups,
the swelling catkins dangling from the river birch.
After a cold dry winter the air is soft on the skin.
The river damp of evening intensifies scent
A pair of cranes call from the gravel bar upstream.
And from across the prairie,
on the other side of the aspen copse,
comes the peent of a woodcock trying to attract an admirer
for his coming aerial performance.
And further away,
from the savanna with too many trees for woodcock,
comes another peent,
defying the field ecologist’s logic.
I call out, “Mother whatever you are doing you must stop.
Come. See the moon.”
From behind Blackhawk Ridge
rises the deep orange glow of a full moon
scrimmed by layers of moist air.
She comes through the door,
wheels her walker to the screen and
cocks her hearing-aided ear.
Peent, peent ………. Peent.
She hasn’t heard one since they’ve arrived.
“Was that it?”
At that instant in the deepening dusk,
higher and higher above us,
comes the lyrical chirping treble of the woodcock,
his passionate cadenza.
Then dead silence
as he drops like a stone to earth.
As I drape a shawl over her shoulders
I catch for a moment what she must feel
to be here still
tasting the wonder of spring.
Kristin Clausen, Madison
Editor’s Note: Kristin’s poem is about her mother, Jean Clausen, who wrote the “From the Riverbank” column for the Sauk Prairie Star from her home on the Wisconsin River, between Sauk City and Ferry Bluff, for 41 years until her death at age 99 in 2014.