The Cranes, Texas January by Mark Sanders

texas cheryl allison licensed

The Cranes, Texas January
by Mark Sanders

I call my wife outdoors to have her listen,
to turn her ears upward, beyond the cloud-veiled
sky where the moon dances thin light,
to tell her, “Don’t hear the cars on the freeway—

it’s not the truck-rumble. It is and is not
the sirens.” She stands there, on deck
a rocking boat, wanting to please the captain
who would have her hear the inaudible.

Her eyes, so blue the day sky is envious,
fix blackly on me, her mouth poised on question
like a stone. But, she hears, after all.
                                                         January on the Gulf,
warm wind washing over us,
we stand chilled in the winter of those voices.

Copyright ©2011 by Mark Sanders from his collection Conditions of Grace: New and Selected Poems, Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011, used by permission of the author. 

PHOTO: Whooping Cranes, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Austwell, Texas. Photo by Cheryl Allison, used by permission. 


NOTE: The whooping crane, one of the largest North American birds—standing five feet tall, with a wingspan of over seven feet—is an endangered crane species named for its “whooping” sound. In the wild, the whooping crane’s lifespan is estimated at 22 to 24 years. Pushed to the brink of extinction in 1941 by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to 21 wild and two captive whooping cranes, conservation efforts have led to a limited recovery. The total number of cranes in the surviving migratory population, plus three reintroduced flocks and in captivity, is estimated at 800 birds, according to a March 2018 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report. Learn how you can help at

PHOTO: Whooping crane in flight over Texas, 2011. Photo by John Noll, U.S. Department of Agriculture, used by permission. 


NOTE: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is a 115,324 acre protected area in Austwell, Texas, situated on the southwest side of San Antonio Bay along the Gulf Coast. It also includes the majority of Matagorda Island, a 38-mile barrier island. The site was established on December 31, 1937 by Executive Order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.  Bird life includes ducks, herons, egrets, ibises, roseate spoonbills, and the whooping crane, whose population has recovered significantly since the 1940s, but remains endangered. Watch a short video about conservation efforts at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge at

IMAGE: Map showing location of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Sanders is a poet, creative essayist, fiction writer, and literary critic with more than 500 publications in journals in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada. His collection Landscapes, with Horses, won the Western Heritage Award in the category of Outstanding Book of Poetry for 2019, His short story, “Why Guineas Fly,” was selected as one of 100 outstanding short stories for 2007 by Stephen King in Best American Short Stories, and his essay, “Homecoming Parade,” was selected as one of the outstanding works of the year in the 2016 edition of Best American Essays. His writing has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes more than a dozen times and been listed among the notable works in Pushcart. His poetry has been featured in American Life in Poetry, a syndicated series published by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, and on the Poetry Foundation website. Sanders is the long-time editor of Sandhills Press, a small, independent press he started in 1979. His most recent collection, In a Good Time, was published by WSC Press in 2019. He is associate dean and professor of English in the College of Liberal and Applied Arts at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.

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