Shadows by Starlight

 tumble toward rest;
bank low through owlets
  scattered and still; lend voice
  to the tree-bound, huddled or
  hunted — sweeping through sleepers’ dark
feathered dreams while stars limn their flight, limb
to strange limb, seeking, then finding, their peace.

Comments always are welcome.
Special thanks to Terry Glase for the use of his photo titled “Sunrise.” Click HERE for three larger views of the same sunrise, shown on his site. For more information on the Etheree, a syllabic poem that, in its basic form, contains ten lines and a total of fifty-five syllables, please click HERE.


101 thoughts on “Shadows by Starlight

    1. Thanks, Janet. Some people like to develop fhe form (adding ten more lines that go from ten syllables to one, for example) and that adds even more interesting shapes to the mix. I’ve stayed with this, just because it’s enough of a challenge to deal with 55 syllables.

    1. I’m glad you like it, Yvonne. I’ve had the title since 2010; it came to me during a trip to the Louisiana bayous. But I didn’t know what belonged with it until my July trip to Presidio La Bahia. There are reports of a white owl that lives in the church there. I never saw it, but I spent a lot of time watching the birds from the parade grounds and ramparts. I’ve been working on this ever since.

      1. I’m glad that you kept the poem in mind. The “white” owl probably is a barn owl since they will nest and live in the lofts of buildings. The barn owl appears white from a distance. Look it up in a bird book or in Google for images of the Barn Owl

        1. I’m sure you’re right, for two reasons. One is the scientific name, “Tyto alba.” Alba means white, of course. And, on the Cornell page, the recordings of their various calls were instantly recognizable. They don’t hoot or call in the same way as other owls, and I have heard them without knowing what I was listening to.

          Here’s something that’s a real treat: a live cam of Texas barn owls. I’m a sucker for these cams — I got to watch an osprey fledge once, back in July of 2011. Such fun.

      1. How true. But this was a little snide (different context). I had written a long, boring, cynical article on my blog about a Pascal’s triangle like formation of words (criticising modern poetry), using a simple arithmetic progression. just an insider joke. But thanks for the info :)

        1. In other words, you were commenting on your own post, rather than on mine. That’s perfectly fine, although I can’t imagine setting out to be snide, cynical or boring. But thanks for stopping by.

            1. I wasn’t offended: only making an observation. There’s no need for apologies. By the way — I didn’t delete your comment. I only was responding to others before going back and approving comments in moderation.

    1. It’s wonderful how images and words can play off one another, isn’t it? I always enjoy the chance to showcase the work of photographers like Terry, too. There’s a world of stunning images out there, and it’s great to find a perfect one for a poem.

    1. You’re welcome, Terry. I knew you’d have one that would fit, and you certainly did. I was even more pleased when I got up this morning and took a look at them paired together. It seems that other people think they’re a good match, too.


    1. It’s good to hear you combine peaceful and vivid, Catherine. Sometimes “peaceful” can tend toward the pastel, or even the bland. Although I’ve not really thought much about it, my first impulse is to say that real peace is tougher, and more sinewy: more vivid, if you will.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Happy weekend to you.

    1. I know Frank Capra’s later works, of course, but I’ve never seen “It Happened One Night.” Now that I get the joke, I’m wondering if I haven’t seen a clip of that scene, or if it might have been lifted and used in other films. It certainly seems familiar.

        1. According to Wikipedia:

          “Frank Capra’s influential romantic comedy It Happened One Night became the first film to perform a ‘clean sweep’ of the top five award categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay… It also was the first romantic comedy to be named Best Picture.”

          It’s definitely worth seeing. I looked for a clip of the relevant scene online but didn’t find any clips at all from the film, probably because of copyright. The cable channel Turner Classic Movies shows “It Happened One Night” from time to time, and it should be readily rentable.

          1. Even better, it’s on offer from Amazon Prime, so I can watch it for “free” any time I want. It’s on the to-do list, well ahead of window-washing and cat bathing.

        1. That’s what I read in the synopsis I found. It makes me think that she must have been fairly limber, to be able to pull it off without losing her balance. Thanks for adding your recommendation, Melanie — I’m looking forward to seeing it.

    1. My first thought was of your tree-bound peacocks. But my second thought was of Ants, and ways this might speak to his experience, too. I’m glad the poem touched you.

    1. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t see the sunrise. Because of the orientation of my apartment, I see the sun physically setting rather than rising, but I still love the change from darkness into light. Now that the weather has cooled, I’ll be out and about more often, down at the bay or elsewhere, in order to enjoy the full experience.

      1. I saw a sunrise in Australia recently and one enroute to Australia. Other than that my last NZ sunrise was the morning of Sept 4 2010. World turned upside-down and the most welcome and beautiful sunrise ever. It was such an impossibly beautiful day weather wise. I am silly to miss sunrises because I love the lifting of darkness, too.

        1. We had fine, sunny days after Hurricane Ike, with amazing blue skies. Eventually we hoped for rain again, since the drying mud and goo turned into the most awful dust that coated everything, but eventually the rains came, and all was well.

          Even though I like mornings and prefer to be up for the dawn, there are times when a little encouragement to “get with it” comes in handy. You might enjoy one of my favorite bits of morning bounce. . Whining about going to work and other travails sounds so much better in French, with a nice tune.

          Here’s a bit of background on the lyrics. From Appollinaire and Poulenc to Pink Martini!

          1. Oh I had forgotten about Pink Martini! I have been jaunting to the morning bounce for hours. Thank you. I didn’t know the background to the lyrics. Thank you for that too. Poulenc’s Hotel is not quite so jaunty. :D

    1. Perfect, DM. That you found it “slightly haunting” is especially nice. I suspect you’re out and about early often enough to know exactly what the birds are like at that time.

  1. What a quiet and beautiful poem. It reminds me of our geese as they swoop around in a large circle and slowly glide down to the horse pasture every evening at sunset – a lovely thing.

    1. That horse pasture is turning out to be a real bonus for you, isn’t it? The thought of geese making it their home as well as the horses is just wonderful. They’re such elegant creatures. On the other hand, when they’re migrating into our territory, their huge flocks can be raucous, and sometimes sound almost demented. Then, quiet and beautiful doesn’t quite apply.

      I’m glad you like the poem.

  2. Hauntingly beautiful–the photo and poem work together perfectly. Thanks for sharing the link about the Etheree form of this poem. I’d never heard of it before. I don’t write much poetry, but I’m tempted to try to do an Etheree.

    1. I’m glad you found the pairing a good one, Sheryl, and I’m glad you like the poem. I discovered Etherees only a few years ago, and really enjoy the form. If you do a search here on my blog for “etheree,” you’ll find a dozen (or maybe more) that I’ve written, so you can see how the form can be adapted. You’ll also see some that aren’t quite so good, but that’s part of the learning curve. Getting the right number of syllables on each line is easy. Getting them to fit gracefully is something else!

      I think you’d enjoy working with them. Give it a try — there’s nothing to lose, after all.

    1. Those Montana mountains are something, aren’t they? Sunrise, sunset, or noon, I never tire of seeing them.

      I always enjoy looking for images to fit with my poems. I may not know what I want, but when I find it, there’s no question. Funny, how that happens. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your appreciation.

    1. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the Etheree, Jeanie, but I certainly enjoy working with them.

      What’s amusing is that I never know when one is going to show up. A phrase will come to mind (like “wing weary nightflyers”) and I recognize that it fits the form: in this case, the first three lines. Then, I carry it around with me until it’s done. There can be a lot of changes, and often, as is the case with this one, it’s entirely different than what I envisioned in the beginning. It’s like heading to Paris and ending up in Cartagena, without having a clue how you got there.

    1. Starlight shadows are marvelous. I remember them from snowy nights in Iowa, and from offshore sailing. It’s amazing how much starlight can be experienced when there’s nothing to interfere.

      I’d never considered the thought that Venus might cast shadows, too. But, as I think about how bright it can be at time, it makes sense. I’ll look forward to the results of your project.

  3. What morning to read your lovely poem, and look at the lovely pic. I’m a night owl tonight — only slept a few hours: I just love the night too much to want to sleep — I guess I’ll have to have a cat-nap later on to catch-up on some rest.

    1. Genie, I had to laugh at your comment about loving the night too much to sleep. During our open-window seasons, I love being up at midnight or later, listening to the fish, the birds, and the breeze. I can be reluctant to give way to sleep, too — although I always do.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the smile. I’m glad you liked the poem.

  4. Gorgeous picture; beautiful etheree! Love the juxtaposition of “limn” and “limb,” too. Such a lovely description of that magical time between night and day!

    1. I really wanted to use the word “madrugada,” which is Spanish for that time before sunrise. But, it didn’t belong here, so it’s on the shelf, waiting. I’m so glad you liked the pairing of photo and poem, and the play with limb and limn. That was a late addition, and I liked it myself. I’m really glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Montana must be breathtaking. I still follow Mia McPherson, one of the best bird photographers in the US, and she lives in Utah and drives over to Montana very often. I used to have bird blog before.

    The Etheree is really interesting and I think your poem flows very nicely; I suppose this syllabic form is meant to create a very smooth, continuous, and melodic mood.

    1. I had the chance once to drive across the upper reaches of Montana,and it was very beautiful. I’d love to go back, and explore the more mountainous regions. In the meanwhile, Terry’s photos certainly bring them to life.

      I’d not heard of Mia McPherson, but I’m following her blog now. I see that one of her favorite places also is one of mine: Antelope Island State Park, outside Salt Lake City. I lived for a year in SLC, and enjoyed the Wasatch and surrounding area immensely.

      I think of the Ehteree as a container that changes shape according to what fills it. I was trying for smooth and continuous movement in this one (I give myself a B), but some of the Etherees I’ve written have a different feel. That’s part of what makes them so much fun.

  6. Lovely poem and accompanying photo. Nice! I especially love it that you have been working on it since 2010. Gives me hope.

    Speaking of white owls that you and Yvonne discussed, you may remember this story. The night before mom died her evening caregiver stopped on the way home at a fast-food place for a bite to eat. While sitting in her car, a white owl flew down to the windshield, looked her in the face, and flew off. According to mythology and her culture, the white owl was a messenger of death. She took it personally! But she called her cousin who assured her that it was simply a message. “If an owl appeared in the window of someone, it was seen as an omen of impending danger or death of a friend or loved one.” The next day I called to tell her mom died.

    Thank you for reminding me of this in your beautiful poem.

    1. I wouldn’t say I’ve been “working on it,” exactly. That sounds too intentional, and too focused. I have been turning it over in my mind, doodling around with different approaches from time to time. Finally, it moved out of the swamps and into the hill country, and things began to click.

      I do remember the story of the owl, Martha. It seems like just yesterday, but of course it’s been years now. There are times when I think of time like a rubber band. Sometimes four or five years seems like only yesterday, and sometimes it seems to stretch so far it could be a lifetime. Strange, that.

      I’m glad to have reminded you of these things, because now I remember, too. Who knows? Perhaps that owl has been part of what’s been fluttering around in my mind.

    1. Terry’s a fine photographer, whether he’s capturing mountains or wildflowers. He was the one whose violet I used for an earlier etheree.

      I smiled when I saw that you had gone out on a limn in your most recent Ashbery post. If there can be planetary conjunctions, why not verbal? I did something I’ve never done before: a Google search for “limn” in the news category. It’s everywhere: Daily Beast, HuffPo, an assortment of sites. Maybe we’re all being influenced by a force from the outer limn-its.

  7. Beautiful poetry – in both words and image. I was trying to figure out the pattern of the poem and I clearly saw the expansion of each line. But then I learned something new: Pascal’s triangle.

    1. As you can see, the form of the poem is a simple addition of one syllable on each of ten lines. Some people reverse it, going from ten syllables to one, and others will double it, going from one to ten and then back to one, but I like to keep it simple. So, I stick with the original form.

      I was glad that Steve made clear the difference between this form and Pascal’s triangle. It’s wonderful having a mathematician around to help out with poetry analysis!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I enjoy haiku, but they tend to just “come to me,” and don’t require the effort of an Etheree. The effort’s enjoyable, too.

    1. Well, now I’m even more pleased that I changed that line from “banking through owlets.” There were a couple of reasons to do so, but it worked out well. What I hadn’t noticed were the two “ow”s! A good reader often sees something the writer misses, I think.

  8. Beautiful. I especially enjoyed seeing how you used “limn” and “limb.” “Limn” is seen so infrequently these days I thought for a moment it was a typo! Nicely done. Beginning with weariness and ending with peace.

    1. Given who you’re dealing with, it could be a typo. I try so hard (she sighed) and usually do pretty well with my posts, but comments are another thing. Ah, well. “Limn” is a great word. It tickled me to death that it came to mind, and was useful. Think of all the good words that are languishing out there, just waiting to be used again. We have a duty to them!

      I suspect you know that arc from weariness to peace as well as anyone. Another poet who caught it, though somewhat differently, is Berry. I just noticed a line that I’ve mostly skipped over in the past:
      “And I feel above me the day-blind stars
      waiting with their light.”

      It’s the other side of shadows cast by starlight.

  9. I was excited to actually recognize the poem’s form at a glance. Very well done, with beautiful alliteration, one of my favorite things in writing. :)

    1. Good for you, Alex. I didn’t learn about the Etheree until after I began blogging — well after, actually. I’m sure someone else used it and drew my attention to it, but at this point, I can’t remember.

      It is a great form, and a great way to learn to use techniques like alliteratiion to create more than a correct syllable count. Rhythm’s the hardest. I tried about seventeen last lines — each had twelve syllables! Finally, I got it — with a completely different direction, and some line-wrapping.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      1. I actually didn’t know about it until April this year! A person doing A-Z in April was blogging poetry forms, and that was the one they touched on that actually stuck with me. Hard, but a fun challenge. You did splendidly!

  10. Utterly eerie and hauntingly beautiful. I couldn’t stop looking at the picture while digesting the words. I would certainly buy a compliation of your poems. How talented you are!xxx

    1. I can’t make these Etherees “just appear” — they seem to have their own timetable. But I have been toying with the idea of putting some together in a book, once I have enough to make a collection. I’m not even sure how many I’ve written — i tend to forget my own work, and have to go back and ferret it out!

      I’m really happy to read your words “eerie” and “hauntingly.” I wanted, as best I could, to capture that after-midnight-deserted-but-for-the-birds feeling. I thought I did, just a little, and you’ve given me some confirmation of that. Many thanks!

  11. ‘Tis a lovely poem and it had me soaring along with the flyers until they found their evening’s resting place, Linda. Terry’s image does match your words well.

    1. Thanks, Steve. You know how much I enjoy pairing photos with words. Sometimes the image brings forth the words, as your lotus did. Sometimes, the words come first, and the hunt for the right image can be a wonderful excuse to browse archives!

      I’m glad you found the poem lovely — that’s a lovely compliment, too.

    1. Thanks so much for those complimentary words, Mary. One reason I like the etheree is that, while the form doesn’t vary, what fills the form can vary a good bit. A pitcher can hold water, wine, or lemonade; it’s the same pitcher, but different effects and associations.

      I wouldn’t mind writing more poetry, but every time I’ve set out to do so intentionally, it’s been wasted time and effort. On the other hand, there are times when a line comes to mind and I think, “That’s part of a poem.” Then, all I have to do is find the rest of it.

      I’ve felt much better about moving from essays to etherees to history since coming across this quotation from John McPhee: “You find out what sort of writer you’ll be by banging around from one form to the next.” I’ll take advice from him any day, and that seems pretty good advice.

  12. In the pre-daylight dawn, I sit on my front porch listening to the owls speak to one another from among the trees and wonder if they ever grow weary of the same refrain, or if inflection gives the same phrase different meaning. Beautiful etheree, Linda.

    1. Thanks so much, Wendy. I thought about you and your owls while I was working on this. You’re so, so lucky to have a place where you can listen to them.

      Whether they get tired of their calls, I can’t say, but the osprey are back, and it’s heart-warming and fun to listen to them call to one another. I’ve watched one pair for three years — I’m just sure it’s the same birds. One always sits atop the same mast while the other hunts, and then they they change places. But they always keep in contact with their calls — not even a need for a smartphone!

  13. Looks like we’ve both had attacks of poetry lately. The other day, I saw an “etheree” — or perhaps it was a “fibonacciree” A poem with syllabic lines based on the Fibonacci series. Thought of you.

    1. I just made the mistake of instituting a little search for “fibonacciree.” I met several interesting concepts, and a piece written by one Mary Rose Cook titled, “The Fibonacci Heap Ruins my Life. I didn’t understand a bit of it (at least once she got past road maps, London, and trees) but it was so well written I read the whole danged thing. There’s a lesson there.

  14. Oh, and Erik Wollo. A guitarist. You might like his stuff if you can find it on Pandora. — Isn’t that the music service you use?

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Anne. And isn’t it fun to dust off a word now and then that deserves more attention and use? As for liminal moments, they’re often unrecognized, but so important. When what has been is gone, and what will be is yet to be revealed, it can be disconcerting, at best!

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