Poetry Friday–Jane Yolen and Response

1a-dusky-throated antshrike-mouth leaves-4-16-2020

Dusky throated antshrike and Mouth Leaves, © 2020 Michelle Kogan, WIP, Watercolor and watercolor pencil.

Happy Poetry Friday!

On Monday I read Jane Yolen’s heart-wrenching poem, Plowing Under. The poem reminded me of a few articles I  just read about long car lines waiting for food at food pantries, and how farmers are having to plow under food due to restaurants and schools being closed. My post this week addresses these dilemmas created and exacerbated by our invisible Coronavirus. I’m first sharing Jane Yolen’s poem, which she graciously allowed me to share, and then my own response.


American farmers, unable to sell
their green beans to closed restaurants,
with no help from the government,
were left to plow them under,
as the politicians forgot
the poor in their small houses,
virus-ridden rest homes,
shops with empty shelves.
In this same week, the Resurrection
of a young rabbi is celebrated
who said, among other things,
clothe the poor, feed the hungry,
treat your neighbor as yourself,
and was killed for his insurrection.
There are no metaphors or rhymes
tough enough for me to recount
the horror of that article, that photo,
in simple black and white.
So I write a poem, as stark, as bare
as the shelves, as our hearts,
those same hearts that once
grew daffodils and now hold stones.

©2020 Jane Yolen all rights reserved


For my response I wanted to pull in a bird, as I’ve been focusing on poems with birds this month. I learned about the dusky-throated antshrike, and that it helps other birds, acting as a “Sentinel” calling out to others, and alerting them to imminent danger.


Coronavirus injustice runs rampant–
invisibility infiltrates all classes,
especially our poor and hungry

Coronavirus injustice runs rampant–
Food pantries cry: Feed our hungry,
while farmers plow under rotten produce
originally destined for schools and restaurants

Coronavirus injustice runs rampant–
People cry: Feed us,
while hungry cars wait in mile long food lines
only to leave empty handed

Coronavirus injustice runs rampant–
Food pantry volunteers cry: We’re afraid
while those same volunteers who helped
feed our hungry recoil to their homes

Coronavirus injustice runs rampant–
U.S. president rants: Open my economy
while his advisors advise focus on our virus
and death rates soar higher

Coronavirus injustice runs rampant–
And, humans need to help each other…
There’s a bird that helps other birds,
Amazon’s “Sentinel” bird–
The dusky-throated antshrike,
they perch themselves in their rainforest’s middle layer,
they call out to all diverse neighboring bird species
above and below, alerting them to danger
they help other birds,
they influence other actions
they create stability

Seems we could take some queues from the antshrike…
Seems we could get our hungry fed, and reroute farmer’s food,
seems we could create some stability and correct
some of our coronavirus injustice

© 2020 Michelle Kogan


Molly Hogan at her blog Nix the Comfort Zone has a delectable post this week for hosting our Poetry Friday Roundup. She’s drawing all the poets in with irresistible aromas of fresh baked bread and poems. Thanks for hosting Molly and your delicious post too!

Visit Renée LaTulippe’s site No Water River to find out more about what Poetry Friday is.






About Michelle Kogan Art, Illustration, & Writing

Michelle Kogan is an artist, illustrator, instructor, and writer, creating colorful allegorical figure, flora and fauna paintings and children's illustrations, which have a sensitivity to endangered species, and the environment. She is an art instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Evanston Art Center and offers Plein Air Painting Workshops at nature venues in the Chicago area including the Lincoln Park Conservatory, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park. Visit her online Etsy Shop at: http://www.MichelleKoganFineArt.etsy.com and her website: http://www.michellekogan.com
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19 Responses to Poetry Friday–Jane Yolen and Response

  1. So much heartbreak… Jane’s poem is so poignant, and yours! Thank you bringing in a bird. Speaking of birds, I need a raven. Got any raven art? (There’s a raven in my feed-your-soul just-for-fun work-in-progress.) Thank you. xo

  2. haitiruth says:

    Thank you, Michelle. No words. 😦 Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

  3. Linda Mitchell says:

    Thank you, Michelle. It is heartbreaking that we don’t have a national government that can respond to this (or, likely any) crisis. The selfishness of those in power while farmers literally destroy food is unfathamable. I appreciate you giving voice to the injustice.

  4. janicescully says:

    Both poems tell the tragedy. Nothing to add and it’s always good to see examples in nature of what we could be together.

  5. Kay Mcgriff says:

    Thank you for sharing Jane’s poem and your response. My hope as we come through this coronavirius crisis is that we can re-imagine our society with more justice (and food) for all.

  6. mbhmaine says:

    Thank you for sharing your poem and Jane’s. It’s such an upsetting situation. Like Linda said, I’m horrified daily by the inability of this administration to step up and lead. Today’s tweets have me pulling my hair out. I do appreciate your poetic reminder that we can try to act as sentinels for each other.

  7. lindabaie says:

    Thanks for both poems, Michelle. I saw the news, too, another example of the inability for the administration to act and help. It’s like my shout poem a day ago, I know that there are many managers/CEOs/teachers who could find ways to fix problems. If not, they would find people who could fix problems. That’s what leaders do. I am daily enraged by this latest horror, but was there even before the virus began. I love your repeating line & the example from nature. I’ve seen crows help too. Once it intercepted a hawk that was after a few little sparrows, flew in squawking to drive the hawk away.

  8. Thanks, Michelle for sharing Jane’s poem and your thought-provoking response. I keep hoping that some eye-opening and good will come out of this crisis. Perhaps it still will.

  9. Tabatha says:

    I think we haven’t seen the worst yet, unfortunately. The administration always finds a way to make it worse. I didn’t know about the antshrike. Makes me want to learn more! Thanks, Michelle!

  10. jama says:

    Thanks for your powerful, heartwrenching poem. Injustices indeed — so so wrong. There’s nothing worse than feeling powerless. Thanks too, for sharing about the antshrike (lovely watercolor!).

  11. margaretsmn says:

    Thanks for both of these poems. Your response is all too real. I loved learning about the bird that is helpful. Even trees communicate. We could learn a few things from Mother Nature.

  12. maryleehahn says:

    Wow. Both of these are powerfully, achingly sad. I love the repetition in yours, and your positive ending. I will tell a story of hope and courage — our team of teachers and parapros continues to deliver food to the neediest families in our school’s neighborhoods twice a week — masked and gloved, we set boxes and bags on porches, ring the bell, step back, and witness the gratitude and relief on the faces of those who so need this food.

  13. Mercy. I love these paired poems. And I like the way your circles back at the ending…

  14. Jane’s poem is so poignant and your’s a perfect response. Yes, we must learn from those birds. We are going to need each other more than ever in the coming months. We must be helpers.

  15. cvarsalona says:

    Your reply is a beautiful call for action poem that touches my heart, Michelle. The bonus is that it is based on Jane Yolen’s critical response to these trying times:
    So I write a poem, as stark, as bare
    as the shelves, as our hearts,
    those same hearts that once
    grew daffodils and now hold stones.
    What a glorious bird you share, a sentinel. Thank you for writing a poem that is both sensitive and thought-provoking.
    (Yes, I received your offering for #NatureNurtures2020 and will share it soon on Twitter. Many Thanks.)

  16. Sally Murphy says:

    A sad but beautiful post, Michelle. My heart breaks when I see what is happening in your country. It is hard to believe.

  17. Michelle Heidenrich Barnes says:

    We would do so much better as a society if we paid more mind to Nature. Thank you for sharing this poignant pairing, Michelle

  18. macrush53 says:

    Jane’s poem and your response. Wow. The first line of each stanza of your poem really hits me. Stay safe. we will get through this.

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