Two Poems by Becky Herbig ’74


Becky Herbig has a lifelong interest in the relationship of the arts to the sciences. She began MHC life as an English major, but added Biology to design an interdisciplinary major focused on environmental writing. During an interdisciplinary environmental science career, Becky rediscovered an early interest in poetry. Since then she’s shared in and learned much from writing classes and writers’ groups. Becky published 2 poems in a cooperatively published chapbook, Bringing Poetry to Life and Life to Poetry: New Voices (2000) and a personal essay in The NF Journal (March/April 2000). Since attending the intensive Colrain Poetry Conference in 2009, she is currently developing a chapbook manuscript from 20 years of writing poetry.

Sugaring, 1961
After nightfall of frozen stars,
sap drips, uncongealing
from many spigots
hammered into heartwood.

The clear sap oozes
into pewter pails under tin roofs.
We dip finger to mouth,
sugar on scooped snow amid
sticky-sweet smoke curled in March air,
up from the evaporator
boiling over the firepit.
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Great Hawk: Presence, Presence This by Becca Tarnas

Becca Tarnas ’10 is an artist, writer, and doctoral student at the California Institute of Integral Studies in the Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion program in San Francisco. She uses art and storytelling as a means to reconnect with our planet Earth in this critical time of ecological crisis. Becca attended the San Francisco Waldorf School for 13 years before pursuing Environmental Studies and Theater Arts at Mount Holyoke. She also holds a master’s degree from CIIS in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. Becca has been published in Archai: the Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, where she is currently an assistant editor. A collection of her essays, poetry, paintings, and photographs is available on her website, beccatarnas.wordpress.com.

Emotion held, a breath caught, dark feathered wing-tips,

All rush, all bustle, all anxiety—all suspended.

There is but you and me caught in the inhale of this moment.

Or are you me? Is this suspension nothing more than a pause

A breakdown of the barrier that lies between what I understand,

Between what I understand makes you be you

And makes me

Be?

Dark wings soar, cutting hawk shape from textured sky,

Yet when you appear that sky is no more: merely backdrop.

Gripped between razor claws, your prey—my attention—is caught,

Passing mere feet from this barrier I call skin

You land, you presence, you settle, you ignore, you own,

You own my focus, draw me in, alluring

Me to drop all my life in this moment

Simply

To watch.

Heart beat, heart beat, wing beat, breath,

Heart beat, wing beat, heart beat, breath.

The branch moves, the outside world closing out—

Am I within your envelope of tearing want

Or has that gateway closed?

You shred, you rip, what lies within your grasp,

Talons, razor beak, dark feathers etched with

Beauty, etched with

Death.

Two cries rupture this world into which I gaze alone,

Yet not alone, no more:

Ravens twain disrupt your reign

A pair, a couple, a bonded force, cry out

No!—Do not enter our sacred nest, for which we give our lives

Do not, be not, crisis cries—away, please God

What have you

Done?

Who do you hold between your claws?

How did it come to this? My heart

It beats with desperate want,

Presence, presence this—this moment, this hour,

These days are lost, all brought to focus now

Great hawk, whose heart do you devour

Please tell me, how did it come to

This?

One If By – Elizabeth R. Smith ’92

Elizabeth R. Smith, class of 1992

ONE IF BY

In Boston today I saw

The same pilgrims’ feet treading cow paths                                                                           On  their way to the sea
Shining on a spring day
Shod in shouts of well-wishers
Destination new world
In Boston today I saw

The same reports of smoke coming from the square
Heads turning in curiosity, confusion, horror
A boy dropping his ice cream cone
A girl falling among white blossoms
A woman raising blue eyes to the same sky
In Boston today I saw

The same calloused hands that harvested land and
Heaved ropes on whaling boats
Pulling strangers from the fire
Pressing an open wound
Pinching an artery closed

In Boston today I saw

The same physician’s eye traversing a body
Assessing mortality, calculating distance
Her runner’s apron cradling a curly head
While battle cries form around her

In Boston today I saw

The same shelter-in-place
As the night the Regulars were out
Brownstone doors flung wide to welcome
The pounding feet of runners instead of riders
Citizens watchful at their windows
With solemn nods to servants defending civility

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