“a word about the ditch — sorry — uh, the wetland”


the proposed retention pond was greater

than the existing wetland

according to the corps’ ecological judgment

the word navigable must be given some content

the corps must necessarily choose a point

at which water ends and land begins


the transition from water to solid ground is not abrupt

the purity of nonnavigable tributaries will be treated

as an end, one of the last forested stopover points

looked like nothing more than a beach

there is no wet area that is not subject to federal control

where small amounts of water may collect — puddles, in effect


impoundments of waters, isolated, intrastate, non-navigable ponds

the corps must draw the line somewhere

the term person means an individual, corporation, partnership,

association, state, municipality, commission, or political

subdivision of a state, or any interstate body

wetlands are different — act like a sponge


and may regulate the kitchen sink

navigable under the classical understanding of that term

a focus on physical proximity and adjacency makes sense

a specific connection as opposed to a categorical judgment

was it found that there was no connection

or was it not found that there was not a connection


a wetland butting and inseparable

is a clearly significant nexus

whether distance is one or forty or one hundred miles

over virtually any wet area in the nation

water body’s capability of use by the public

does not allow speculation


what is your definition of tradition?

the sidecasting of spoils

where do I find the distinction between wet and dry depression?

defer to agency


“a word about the ditch” was previously published in Source Material 03, ed. Damian Weber (House Press)


Rapanos vs. U.S., 04-1034, Brief for the United States.

Carabell vs. Army Corps of Engineers, 04-1384, Brief for the Respondents.

Personal notes by JS on the Supreme Court Hearing for these two cases, argued (jointly) February 21, 2006, including comments by Justices Alito, Breyer, Ginsburg, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Souter, Stevens, by the U.S. Solicitor General Clements, and by the other Counsels for the Petitioners and Respondents.


Blackburnian Warbler

Dendroica fusca

3 songs

in winter: numerous, humid

travels mainly the Andes

zip zip zip


titi tseeeeee

even higher than

high-pitched Cerulean’s

up-slurred note

prefers hemlocks


fiery cadmium-orange

picks Northern

Parula’s considerable

torqued, see say

plush as throat


a fuscous bit of fire

an Englishman in dark

glass might spot


pisses on the street, folds

verse, some sonafa

bitch erases the heart


in class action tort law

suit means weights, hey


whenever you leave, feed

affirm a need to believe

and know the tongue

is tied


exploits outbreaks

uncoils, ingests

Tepui region

Espiritu Santu’s

rosa blanca es

Surinam and



spruce budworm

obsessives glean




wretched teenager sings

en julio como en enero

reach out reach out reach out

with a psychic sense





tail’s cocked

into needles

black rootlets

sings a record

in his heart


fix it, fix it fix it

unjust as such mysteries are



in high-pitched

wiry woods

reindeer-life /

bird-deaths reach

far inaudible



wet and cool

after clearing, dark



Jonathan Skinner’s poetry collections include With Naked Foot (Little Scratch Pad, 2008) and Political Cactus Poems (Palm Press, 2005).  Skinner founded and edits the journal ecopoetics <>, which features creative-critical intersections between writing and ecology.  His most recent essay, “Thoughts on Things: Poetics of the Third Landscape,” appears in the )((eco (lang)(uage (reader)) (Portable Press at Yo-yo Labs and Nightboat Books, 2010).  Skinner teaches in the Environmental Studies Program at Bates College in Central Maine, where he makes his home. 

2 thoughts on “BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER by Jonathan Skinner

  1. “Blackburnian Warbler” full of their sounds, movements, so alive and all coming to pivot on your one word line “believe . . .” and I do. Thank you for your poetry.

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