Navigating the Poets Sky poems by Karen Ciosek

picture of Karen Ciosek
Photo by Julianna Drescher.  

How fortunate we are to encounter a book devoted exclusively to birds! In Navigating the Poet's Sky, Karen J. Ciosek takes us on a tour of the many species of birds that have enriched her life. About the book, Jeff Mock has said this: “Our connections to the birds that soar the skies above us, and to those birds that visit us, are often both visceral and symbolic, in the way that dreams are.  We see in them what we want to see.  Or we see in them what we need to see.  The birds in Karen Ciosek’s Navigating the Poet’s Sky—geese, herons, barred owls, wild turkeys, and more—offer such opportunities.  In ‘Unexpected,’ for example, ‘Swans, large feather boats, drift / into this grey autumn morning’ and offer needed emotional transport to the speaker.  Tree swallows in ‘The Performers’ lead the speaker to ‘imagine charting / along a coastline, / watching the shore / unravel like a ribbon / just as swallows do.’  Each bird in this collection is a gift of sorts, like the scarlet tangier in ‘Gift of the Gods’ that ‘explodes, / a mini wildfire / flashing from one / branch to another’ and ‘pushes his way / into spring.‘ ”
  Navigating the Poeats Sky cover image
  Photograph by David Mark, from Pixabay.

Karen J. Ciosek is a retired teacher living in Wallingford, Connecticut. She has been a backyard birdwatcher for many years and is consistently inspired by avian beauty, resiliency, survival and seasonal migration. She is a member of the Connecticut Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. As a poet, she leads Saturday Mornings with Poetry at the Wallingford Public Library. She completed an MFA in poetry at Southern Connecticut State University in 2020 and is a member of the Connecticut Poetry Society. This is her first published collection of poems.

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ISBN 979-8-9855621-8-7
First edition, 2022
60 pages

Copies of this book are available
at all bookstores including Amazon
and can be ordered directly
from Karen J. Ciosek
20 Concord Lane
Wallingford, CT 06492.
Send $15 per book
plus $4 shipping
by check payable
 to Karen J. Ciosek.


The author can be contacted at


Copyright © 2022 by Karen J. Ciosek


Autumn Song


A night of rain
burdens dawn
with damp chill.
I cringe, pull
my robe closer.
As I lift a blind
to let in light,

a wren’s song rises.
Trills and warbles
welcome the day,
wash over me,
my deck, the last
of summer flowers.
I smile,

see him perched
and singing.
he celebrates
my petunias
still purple, joyous
in October.



Swans, large feather boats, drift
into this grey autumn morning.
Like an unexpected gift

pristine against barren trees,
dark water, slate sky,
they surprise and delight me.

This beauty, calm and reposed,
allows me to forget
deadlines and shortcomings,

interruptions and unasked-for
criticisms that annoy, hurt.
With eased body, freed mind,

I release demands to a beyond.
I imagine floating,
a single feather fluttering,

twirling above the surface
of this wet, quiet world.
I unwind in their wildness,

their distant elegance,
even though each swan
keeps one black eye on me.



My grandson,
a five-year-old, hurries
on wiry legs
down my stairs.
He’s as headstrong
as the nuthatch
circling headfirst
down my tree,
two of them
on a mission.

One rushes to see
a garbage truck
with its mechanical
arm dumping trash
into its hopper.
The other one is
determined to feast
on a suet cake tied
to a hickory tree,
eat some now,
store some for later.

both need to fill
an appetite.

Waiting for Lift-Off


Across Yucatan’s white shores
that face wide horizons
of the Caribbean,
vireos, tanagers, orioles,
warblers, and thrushes
assemble in trees.

Flock after flock they arrive
from equatorial places.
They fill broadleaf forests
with excitement,
their birdsongs rising
in sweet cacophony.

Brilliant in mating plumage,
the males flit and fly
between branches
like blinking miniature lights
that announce the approach
of a special occasion.

A restlessness spreads.
They need to answer
an unstoppable call
to internal clocks
ticking, ticking down
and, at the perfect moment,

explode upward
in wave upon wave
of dark singing clouds.
Charting star-filled skies
they’ll funnel north into flyways,
perilous adventures

we are still unraveling.



by a garbage truck’s
clank and whir
and a siren’s screech,
a northern flicker
sleeps vertical

on my pine tree.
As darkness starts
to lift, he’s peaceful,
head resting
into pillowed chest,
toes locked into bark.

He sleeps, sleeps,
unlike me,
wide awake,
waiting, waiting
for the orange eye
of dawn.

The Bird Painter


I dip my brush
into blue, a vivid,
celestial blue,
like lapis lazuli.
On my canvas,
I outline a thrush

from top of beak,
up and over head, neck,
down the back,
and extend my strokes
out to tip of the tail.
Dipping and painting,

I shape the left wing
folded against his side,
build on the blueness,
define feathers with swirls
on wing and tail.
Next, I clean the bristles,

circle them in orange,
an apricot tone, fiery
as a sunset. I brush
the throat with its warmth,
spread it through the breast,
leaving hints that fade
into the white belly.

With pointed tip infused
in grey, I paint the beak
and it opens and sings.

When I finish
the two thin legs,
they release the limb
and the bluebird
flies away.



In the morning, a crow
splashes in my birdbath
washing her wings. Next
her prominent beak preens
her undersides. Then,
like a child at play, she
dips her head under water
over and over again.

Each day she repeats
this drill before washing
food for her young
who wait in a fortress
of sticks high in a pine
tree. Every evening

I clean the birdbath,
remove the remains
of daily catches that
collect at the bottom.
Yesterday, soggy
pizza crust.
Today, bleached
tiny nestling feet.

What To Do with Old Poems


A small brown bird
with a white throat
kicks through dry leaves.
He stirs up seeds,

bugs he feasts on.
With head tossed back,
he shares his joy
from his low perch.

I track down my
old poems, ones that
need some fresh breath
or a face lift.

I find new words,
tweak some lines, move
a verse or two,
or leave them out.

This brings a crisp
feel to past thoughts.
Adds zip or zest
like a mint leaf

steeped in iced tea.
I check my poems
once more and like
that small brown bird

with the white throat
who finds new seeds
’neath old dry leaves,
I write with joy.