Do they, these plants, these birds, these fish, these things
We call invasive
Do they ever drop that label?

In my perfect world, the world I want to see
The sweet smell of honeysuckle would not pervade
The cool north Alabama springtime air
Birds would not gorge on the berries of privet or English ivy
Kudzu would not consume square miles of the countryside
European starlings would not descend upon my lawn en masse

But, despite my wishes, they have
They do
They will

I do my best never to propagate or propone
I educate where and when I can
I pull and chop when given the opportunity
But when I think of the injury I and my own species
Wreak upon the local environment with our daily practices
Our automobiles, our refuse, our pollution
All in the pursuit of comfort and convenience
I have to wonder if my energies
My emotional energies
Are better spent elsewhere

(Draft) Tim Gels May 2020


Sassafras Leaves

Recently a friend posted pictures of a tree
Well, part of a tree, a very small part
Leaves, emerging from a bud
The same bud, every day
A bud on a sassafras tree
The same tree; the same bud

#phenology, she tagged the images:
The study of cyclic natural phenomena

She started with magnified pictures
As the small action required
Eventually leaving that technique behind
Day by day we watched as her photos
Documented what we saw all around us
Nature’s newness emerging

Frost said, “Nature’s first green is gold”
And, of course, he was right

As a student, I knew what I was watching
A bud, formed the summer before
Covered with scales, holding embryonic leaves
Before that, meristems and apical meristems
Leaf primordia, cell division, growth
An annual process repeated over millennia

Recognizing the science, daily I let it go
Choosing instead to just enjoy the miracle


Coming In from the Back Yard

As the air cools in the evening
Coming in from the back yard, it seems
Is never just coming in from the back yard

With the sun cut in half by the trees to the west
One’s coming in from the back yard should be easy:
Point yourself toward the back door and walk

But it’s rarely that simple  

You see the last plants in the garden that need watering
The last weed, missed before, to be plucked from the ground
The wheelbarrow, shovels, and hand tools to be cleaned

The level in the chicken waterer, you notice, is low
And it’s best to take care of that tonight
So it’s not forgotten with the busyness of the morning 

There are so many things to take care of

The hose coiled, the chickens settled
The sun now fully below the tree line and dusk deepening
You stand, one last time, on the porch looking out over the yard

The evening birds are singing their twilight songs
The air is still and distinctly cooler
And you turn toward the house

Reaching for the light switch as you go

A Visit to the Ocean

When I visit the ocean
I suppose I do it in the conventional way
I start with the drive, heading to the coast
Leaving my home to eventually travel
Past the souvenir shops and the restaurants
Cruising along strip malls with coffee bars and other bars
And the crowds of people, weary and windblown
Walking the sidewalks

Eventually I’ll reach the beach
Hot, bright, and sometimes littered with sand toys
Toys left “for the next family”
I’ll walk with a crunchy shuffle toward the surf
Until my feet finally feel the water
A few steps later and the waves are pushing against my body
And soon I’m in up to my neck
Bobbing up and down as the water undulates around me

And I stop.

What if, though, I could simply start in the middle?  At the bottom?
Somehow submerged despite the laws of nature
Relaxing, strolling the depths
Barely able to see by the dim light that’s made its way down to me
I’ll walk amongst the other aquatic beings
Those both imagined and unimagined, swimming past me
Or scurrying along the ocean floor
Creatures without an uncomfortable chafing problem
The kind you get when you go to the ocean


Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Living on the edges
Woodland   Field   Woodland
Ear tufts and yellow eyes
Hearing and seeing what you and I can’t

A mellow hoot belies the fear it imparts as it
Preys the edges
Woodland   Field   Woodland
Ear tufts and yellow eyes

Feathered tiger

This is partly a found poem, using words and phrases from National Geographic’s Birds of North America: Pocket Guide (2013)


Writing by Hand

A few weeks ago, near the beginning of the month, I was invited by Christie Wyman of Wondering and Wandering to participate in a TeachWrite workshop hosted by Jennifer Laffin. As life right now would have it, I wasn’t able to participate in the next workshop, but I was able to participate in one last week. It was fun, and I thank both Christie and Jennifer for the opportunity to be there (Zoom there?).

As the workshop got started, the participants were invited to do a number of things, one of which was to write in our notebooks.


Errr, my notebook.

I have a strange relationship* with notebooks. In principle, I love them. I have several. I encourage (okay, require) my classroom students to use them. I mean, come on: A notebook! All writers use notebooks, right? I have several, and I even write in them. On occasion. Sometimes. Okay…rarely.

I know I’m supposed to, but more often than not, when I need a notebook to jot down an idea I don’t have one with me. Yes, I’ve tried a pocket notebook, but it only lasted a few days. What about when you sit down to write, one might ask? Honestly, typing (keyboarding…I know) is just easier. As an added bonus, when I use a computer, my work is now on all of my devices since I write in the world that is Google.

Anyway, back to the workshop. I did! I did write in my notebook. The novelty of doing so got me thinking about the process, and the first two stanzas of a poem actually came out of the time with the group. In the spirit of things, I actually finished the piece, then revised and edited it with a pencil on the page. Oddly enough, it came out with a rhyme scheme. That doesn’t happen often, but I like it when it does

Despite the ending, I really do like notebooks. Sort of.


A pencil on paper
A mark on the page
It’s like watching live music
Or an actor on stage

It’s not fingers on keys
And there isn’t a screen
It’s real, and it’s physical
Do you see what I mean?

Is it good? Is it better?
This writing by hand?
Does this scribbling unplugged
See my vision expand?

I think that it doesn’t
— Leave those voices ignored
You can keep all that scratching
And I’ll keep the keyboard


*then again, maybe I don’t–maybe I have a normal one and just don’t know it!

Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy Theory


A hand flashed and two dice bounced into view

Snake eyes.  Snake eyes?  

Snake eyes

Two pips looked up and the people looked down, most with dismay




Folded paper changed hands and some of the crowd began to walk 

No longer having a reason to stay


Soon, the voices started 

Low at first 

Then gaining in volume

Their displeasure evident


Loaded.  The dice were loaded

There are too many ways to do it

The collective mind and the collective voice gained confidence 

As the anger grew


They’re weighted.  That’s it

That’s how it happened  

A friend of mine had a set once

They’re weighted. I’ve seen this before.  They’re weighted


The voices worked that one over for a while 

As each individual uncovered in his mind a new truth 

A truth few others could see or understand 

Until it was explained to them  


Then another voice spoke out, louder than those before

You shave a side, just a bit, and polish it to look like all the others

That’s how it happened

There’s nothing worse than a cheat


Volume and rage built 

Pointing at the unknown yet clearly known

Surely known

It was easy to see, once you knew where to look


But: Chance.  Fate.  

Tragic, in a sense, but inevitable 

Unlooked for 

And certainly unwanted


What if the roll just came up aces

Dash the probability

And it’s as simple 

As simple as that