Many of us keep journals, but while doing so few of us pay much attention to selecting the most precise words, to determining their most...

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Many of us keep journals, but while doing so few of us pay much attention to selecting the most precise words, to determining their most effective order, to working with effective pauses and breath-like pacing, to presenting an engaging impression of a single, unique day. This poem by Nebraskan Nancy McCleery is a good example of one poet’s carefully recorded observations.

— Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate

December Notes

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The backyard is one white sheet

Where we read in the bird tracks

The songs we hear. Delicate

Sparrow, heavier cardinal,

Filigree threads of chickadee.

And wing patterns where one flew

Low, then up and away, gone

To the woods but calling out

Clearly its bright epigrams.

More snow promised for tonight.

The postal van is stalled

In the road again, the mail

Will be late and any good news

Will reach us by hand.

Nancy McCleery

Reprinted from “Girl Talk,” The Backwaters Press, 2002, by permission of the author. Copyright © 1994 by Nancy McCleery. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry. “American Life in Poetry” appears Fridays in Northwest Life.