Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat: Poetry Inspired in My Backyard

two cats on picnic table
A wonderful morning in the back yard with Namir and Cookie; this was just three days before Namir died.

Spring has been tentative this year, but lately has been winning the battle of frozen overnights and warm sunny days. The morning drizzle has cleared and I’ll finish this week’s article on butterfly gardens in time for next Saturday—Mimi and I are going to enjoy a day in the back yard doing whatever we can!

This is the last Saturday of National Poetry Month. April is always a month bursting with creative energy for me, and I’ve been busily writing new poems and letting them sit for a while and sketching and photographing, and I’ll share these through May as I finish up and look over what I’ve accomplished. For now, here is a collection of poems from past year inspired by this very back yard I’ve visited each morning for 24 years, and built my gardens and found boundless inspiration, with a long list of feline companions at my side to share those moments.

Sometimes I’m on a ladder in the mulberry tree  picking berries and a poem starts building in my mind. All I can do is remember to carry paper and pen with me, and hope that I’ll be able to balance while I use both hands to write down my thoughts. The poems below were written as a direct result of being out in the yard, or on the deck observing, enjoying this little space I share with so many living things and span all the seasons of my little space. The art and photos were inspired from being in this space as well.

The Gift of a Morning

tortoiseshell cat in greens
Cookie in my garden.

This award-winning poem, about Cookie and about sharing my garden with my cats, has its own post to read more about Cookie and me, and you can also listen to a recording with a slideshow of images from my back yard below.

Tthe Gift of a Morning

I thought Cookie
was being stubborn, contrary,
when she wandered away
into the overgrown garden
sauntering at her own pace beneath the stems
of fallen burdock and grasses
and through the forest
of tall goldenrod and asters
where I couldn’t follow.

She sat calmly among grasses and blooming beggar’s ticks
and when I arrived at her side, irritated,
skirt prickly with stickseed and burdock pods,
I reached to pick her up, bad girl,
and turned to see what she studied,
and saw my garden awash with sun
majestic tufts of goldenrod backlit by beams of light
humming with hungry bees finding
the sweetest autumn nectar for their final meal,
white poofs of sow thistle holy in their radiance,
and the first calico asters, my favorite
dappled with passing drops of sun
against the backdrop of dark silhouetted trees;
so much to love in a sweet autumn morning
so much I would have missed.

. . . . . . .

Like a Tree

watercolor of bare trees
“Tracings”, waqtercolor, 4″ x 6″, 2003 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski (the row of trees I see each morning)

I wrote this sitting on my deck after coming home from a long day way back when I still worked a day job.

Like a Tree

To live my life like a tree,
to grow steadily from small beginnings,
fervently when possible, and quietly adapt when necessary,
stand in peace and harmony with my neighbors,
bear my fruit appropriately,
bring shelter and comfort to others indiscriminately,
and when my season is over
graciously give my gift to the earth
for the benefit of myself and all around me,
and without fear
patiently wait for my moment to return
in spring.

. . . . . . .

Entering Paradise

A little downy woodpecker.
A little downy woodpecker.

Entering Paradise

On the death of a downy woodpecker who flew into my window.

I can only hope that
her heart was filled with the joy of the unfolding spring
and that she saw paradise reflected in the glass of my window.

I wrote this right after she died in my hands.

. . . . . . .

Valentine’s Day

"The Kissing Cardinals" (later in the season, of course)
“The Kissing Cardinals” (later in the season, of course)

This really did happen on Valentine’s Day, and I learned later that this is a courting ritual with American cardinals.

Valentine’s Day

He doesn’t have to give this gift to her
and she doesn’t have to receive it
as she could easily feed herself
but she perches on a fallen branch
while he flies to the feeder
grasps a sunflower seed
and flies back to perch next to her;
they tilt their heads as if to kiss
as she accepts this seed of his love,
the bright red cardinal’s first act of courtship
to his dark red mate
on Valentine’s Day.

. . . . . . .


"Dogwood Blossoms" on the very dogwood tree.
“Dogwood Blossoms” on the very dogwood tree.

This poem was inspired by the dogwood I dug up from the woods near an abandoned chicken coop on an old farm just before it went under the bulldozer to become a McMansion development; the dogwood grows dense and lovely and shades the south wall of my house, blooming profusely in huge white blossoms each spring. This poem was published on A Prairie Home Companion website at the very beginning of their “stories from home” series, and led to me creating an annual poetry reading and art show at Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall.


The dogwoods are blooming up and down my street.
The breaking of the cold,
The unusually warm, brilliant spring day
Has brought my neighbors out to wash cars and cut grass.
Like the returning birds
Their conversations drift and circle from yard to yard
And cross the street on capricious breezes;
We have been put away all winter
Like articles of summer clothing
Our potential at rest,
Yet now, even at night,
Pale, airy clouds of blossoms
Hover in the darkness all over the neighborhood.

. . . . . . .


painting of forget-me-nots
“Forget-me-nots”, pastel, 5″ x 7″, 2006 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Sitting on my deck in the dark of a warm June night.


Dusk shadows sparkle with fireflies,
Air perfumed, heavy:

. . . . . . .

Father’s Day

"Father's Day", a father and daughter cardinal, on father's day.
“Father’s Day”, a father and daughter cardinal, on father’s day.

This was inspired by watching parents raise their little ones.

Father’s Day

She is small but quick
and she obviously adores her father,
following him everywhere
and imitating everything he does,
every sound he makes,
and every way he moves,
as he intends her to do.

This is what they do together most afternoons,
he running down the list of things she needs to know,
and methodically showing her how to do one and then the next,
and he is very affectionate with her, touching her face frequently.
She’s a little uncertain at this next task, though,
and hesitates as he coaxes her,
she clutching the branch in her little orange claws,
tilting her head from side to side,
the tiny red-brown crest on the top of her head
moving forward and back as if trying to focus,
and even though he knows he should probably stand his ground,
the bright red cardinal grasps a sunflower seed from the feeder,
hops back to his daughter, cracking the shell to expose the treat inside,
and, each tilting their heads as if to kiss, he gently places it in her open beak.
Soon, she will be gone to him forever.

. . . . . . .

Raspberry Dreams

raspberries on the bush
Raspberries on the bush, in my back yard.

One morning while picking raspberries I found a childhood memory of discovering a huge raspberry bush, barefoot in afternoon sun, not knowing what they were, and it all came back to me.

Raspberry Dreams

You can best see the constellations
by lying on your back and dreaming
and in due time the sky is filled with
cavorting gods and goddesses,
mythological beasts,
love, death, politics, art
all in the air above you;
yet concentration on one
will cause them all to lose their magic.

So I, facing the surprise berry patch,
focusing to find one berry, and then another
while the clean June sun spilled over my head
warming the smell of berries and leaves and dirt
and small wild plants brushed the soles of my bare feet,
became at the same time a small person
faced with a raspberry clump taller than me,
surprised to find something
so joyfully abundant
and free for the taking
where last week there had only been leaves
along this path,
and, while watching the clouds
forgetting the berries
in both ages
my hands found berry after berry
and my heart found dreams.

. . . . . . .


Feverfew in July, in my garden
Feverfew in July, in my garden

It’s a great way to start the day…


Oh, I can’t stop looking at all the feverfew
in my garden,
I just keep running from one cluster to another
those tiny perfect daisies
in umbels as if floating without stems
on waves of bright green leaves
the dots of dew flashing, sparkling
in the day’s new sun
just arrived over the horizon
its color still warm and yellow
as if it’s a cookie just taken out of the oven
and I have to look at all the feverfew
from every angle
until I’m done looking
and I discover I’ve forgotten all the problems of yesterday
and all the ills of the world that I feel the need to carry
and I’m laughing
and dripping with dew myself
and visualizing stunning works of art
and amazing poetry and prose
most of which will ever be realized
nor do they need to be
the inspiration only needs to settle into my soul in this early morning in June
and its glow will warm heart
and keep me laughing with joy
through the day
and the next
and the next.

. . . . . . .

Wild Apples

"Autumn Wildflowers", the summer palette changes to autumn.
“Autumn Wildflowers”, the summer palette changes to autumn.

Reaching my 50th year and comparing my progress to the seasons. While this is written about a moment of clarity on a local trial in the woods, the perceptions of light and shadow, color and scent and temperature and change of season begin in my back yard.

Wild Apples

At a bend in the trail,
The scent of wild apples greets me.
A tree abandoned from an old orchard
Or sprung up on its own from old stock, wild and uncultivated,
Stands trailside,
Heavy with small round burnished apples.
The late summer heat releases their scent,
Sweet and tart, that the world may know they have reached their prime;
The wild perfume of the coming season.

From another tree one single leaf lets go
And falls, papery, dry and curled, slipping through branches
Clattering to the summer-hardened clay of the trail,
Loud in the silent heat of the August afternoon.
Months before,
Winter lost her grip, and, one by one,
The wildflowers of spring began to bloom,
Which, in their turn, faded into the shadows of the dense summer woods.
Now summer is losing her strength,
Autumn is thinning the woods
And bearing her own flowers and fruits,
Changing the palette of the landscape
With bright summer greens turning gold,
Deep rich shadows fading hazy blue.

Soon autumn will blaze along the trail,
And songbirds will move their chorus south.
Already winter has touched my hair,
And the smell of wild apples is in the air.

All poetry © B.E. Kazmarski. All Rights Reserved.

You can also listen to this poem recorded by me, with a slideshow of images on YouTube or watch it below.

. . . . . . .

To Come Again in Spring

tiny spider
Tiny Spider

It was the tiny spider in the delicate, worn web that inspired this slideshow from 2009 and poem from 2011.

To Come Again in Spring

In this sepia scene
of late-winter twigs and matted leaves
I found the small tattered orb she had built that lasted the winter,
this tiny creature no larger than a grain of sand
now curled in the center, her spirit long gone
from her desiccated body,
yet her tiny children,
awakened by a warming spring sun,
will emerge from all the crevices
in the plant she chose as their birthplace
and find that her final creation
helps provide their first meal,
delicate strands catching the earliest gnats,
though these too be
the children of other mothers;
and so the returning songbirds will catch
the tiny spiders as they leave their web of safety
and find sustenance to begin their families
all toiling through the year to grow and thrive
to prepare for the dark of winter
and to come, again, in spring.

Poem To Come Again in Spring © 2011 B.E. Kazmarski

And click here to bring up the slideshow of the images I took this day.

poetry book cover paths i have walked

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski


People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning.

Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings.

Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way.

All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it.

Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”.

$8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class).

You can order one on my poetry page, or in my Marketplace.

About the books and the poetry readings

My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.

My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.

Read other poems inspired by my cats and listen to those I’ve recorded, and read about my poetry.

My poetry is also organized on my website on one page, all alphabetical, so you’d have to scroll down the list, and many of these poems also appear in the pages I’ve built for my annual poetry readings. I encourage you to visit those pages so you can see even more artwork, even if it isn’t of my backyard.

Read all the articles in this series

About Backyard Wildlife Habitats

Also read about my art, photography, poetry and prose inspired by my backyard wildlife habitat:

Art Inspired by My Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Photography Inspired by My Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Poetry Inspired by My Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Prose Inspired by My Backyard Wildlife Habitat

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Browse some rescued cats and kittens!


All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

© 2014 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!



From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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