Gifts of Nature by Joan Leotta

photos by Joanne Olivieri taken at Ocean Beach, San Francisco Botanical Garden and Metson Lake in San Francisco, CA.

Awarded Honorable Mention in the Dorothy Olivieri Memorial Award Poetry Chapbook Contest 2019.

Gifts of Nature
Twenty Poems by Joan Leotta

Camellias in Winter

Outside our sunroom window,
among ever green
camellia leaves
fuchsia rose-like blooms
popped out yesterday—
even in winter’s cold,
beauty warms the heart.

Heron, the Hunter

among tall grasses
bunched in a watery
roadside trench,
ghost gray feathers,
blends into
morning mist as
he hunts, hoping
for breakfast
before sun
breaks through,
revealing him to
his croaking prey.

Sunrise on the Beach
It seems a simple thing to see a sunrise at the beach,
walking along sand when sky kisses shoreline at the beach.

Waking from a warm soft bed to go outside
I carry coffee in a paper cup; stumble onto the beach.

In that dark moment sun is just inching above  horizon,
Ears call me to the sounds of slow small waves, at the beach

Low tide waves. A calm warm day. Sky agrees.
Sun emerges from the water; tosses shafts of light onto the beach

Glitter and glare fill sky, then, purple, pink, blue. Such sights seen,
walking along sand when sky kisses shoreline at the beach.

Winter Light

Sunrise is a daily struggle
to crack open a frozen horizon
and cling to sky long
enough to provide some
semblance of a day,
short though it will be.

While the Other Flowers
Wait for Spring…

clever little crocus
pokes her head though
hard ground, snow, ice
challenges the darkness,
captures what warmth
weakened morning
sun can spare—

Cardinal Crossing

Yesterday I saw him.
out from a group of bushes
across my path to
on buds and bugs
about in spring breeze.
Was he a sign
from heaven that my son is
watching me?
Or just a bird?
After all, I’ve never
known my son to
ingest insects.
Why would he start

Red Hawk

He guards my field
perched on electrical lines.
He is poised
to unleash those
wings to swoop
on a mouse or mole
threatening my corn.
No car behind,
As I drive, I slow,
pause to watch him.
A moment later he
swings down across
the field, disappearing between
corn rows, then swiftly rising.
Wings spread, but still,
he glides across the sky
close by my windshield
displaying his prey
for my approval.

Late Bloom

Neighbor’s  houses
are framed in blooms
exuberant, colorful, abundant,
by end of March.
April starts with
Sighs of exasperation
But by Shakespeare's Birthday
Just when
I'm resigned to buying
store-bought blooms
for the table.
As I arrange them,
I glance out the window—
Iris purple and white
wave at me from
a backyard flower bed.
My blooms are
late, but oh so splendid.

Cardinal Crossing

Yesterday I saw him.
out from a group of bushes
across my path to
on buds and bugs
about in spring breeze.
Was he a sign
from heaven that my son is
watching me?
Or just a bird?
After all, I’ve never
known my son to
ingest insects.
Why would he start

Carolina Jessamine

Last week
I spotted some vines slithering up
the faded red siding of an abandoned shack.
They  wound and curled about the
frame of a broken window,
reaching around stiff rectangular frames,
softening sharp angles into elegant curves.
In one corner,
a yellow bloom burst forth
filling each of the window's broken spaces
with trumpet blossoms.
Not satisfied with the sight,
I stopped my Honda, and
walked closer
to breathe in the trumpets' aroma.
Redolent of spring,
those bright yellow flowers,
illuminated the dark recesses of my soul
so I could open up to you.


Cherokee love fruit. 
Strewn on the path 
of an angry maiden  
She stopped her flight to  
Gather them, anger melting  
with each sweet bite. 
I think about this as I slice  
these heart shaped treats 
into bowls for my dearest. 
We argued this morning. 

Jay Feather Day 

My fingers pluck  
a drifting blue jay  
feather from the breeze 
before wind 
can whip it away. 
Remnant of a 
proud bird's battle? 
Molt? No matter. 
My sky-blue  
jay feather 
is tickling 
my very soul 
so that I will 
laugh all day long.  

Lilies of the Valley 

Lilies of the Valley— 
small white bells 
whose fragrance ascends 
to God with puff and huff 
of spring's new breath. 
They grew abundantly in 
Grandma's rock garden 
among her hosta 
on the shady side of her porch. 
That very first spring day 
when grandma brought 
her glider out of winter storage 
I would stand on the cushions, 
climb over the iron 
railing , carefully 
lower myself and crouch among 
those tiny nodding bells to 
fill my lungs and soul with their 
aroma of hope. 

Moon Flower  

My friend pointed out the perfect place 
for it to flourish, for me to watch. 
 Nightly, I "surveiled" it. 
waiting for moon's rays 
to bring it to blossom. 
 At last a bud. 
I pulled a chair  
to our glass door 
 Full moon rose up over our pond 
setting a silver sheen on unfolding 
 leaves until a pale white  
flower held sway amid dark foliage. 
 Next day it shriveled in sun's heat. 
Now, I grow basil in that spot. 

Roadside Poppies in Andalusia 

Poppies cluster near the road 
after cutting wide red swaths 
through olive groves and pastures.  
Blood- red, the poppies drape 
fields and barrows 
like matador capes, 
marking, covering,  
scarred places on the land 
where blood once flowed. 
Their beauty makes a 
bright balm for those lost- 
in-battle souls while 
quietly crying out for  
remembrance of those who 
shouted, shot, and died here. 

A Single Bloom 
Petal fingers brush 
mine lightly 
as my hand travels 
down to snap  
bloom from stem. 
Mother bluebird 
living just above  
this volunteer  
rose of sharon  
circles my head, 
chides me 
chirping, chirping 
this bloom is her 
guardian, shielding 
her nest from  
view. I surrender 
to her claim.

White Peaches 

White peaches— 
solid-state champagne 
under red velvet coverlets, 
pale flesh of 
tongue-tingling sweetness. 
Summer's final celebration. 


Yellow gingko fans 
flutter down to sidewalks— 
Joy now marks my path 
Page Break 


with warm  
stolen from the sun. 
Jacket zipped, 
I walk 
along the lake 
whose smooth 
all of autumn's best 
back at me. 

Clouds and Fences 

Barbed wire loops  
along beside the 
road,  fencing me  
off from you. 
Sighing, my eye seeks out 
a way.  I'm drawn,  
to thin strings of clouds   
woven into nets, 
waving in unison. 
These Dream Catchers, 
whisper as they 
undulate across sky, "Grab us,  
to ride safely  
above those prickly wires." 
I reach up and ride 
above barbed realities, 
to realize my dreams— 
to be where there are  
no fences between  
you and me. 

Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood.
She writes in many genres but particularly loves poetry. Her poems have been or are forthcoming in Postcard Poems and Prose, Silver Birch, Fourth River, 
Creative Inspirations, the Ekphrastic Review and others. When she is not admiring her garden, working on the computer, or performing folk tales on stage  you can find her walking by the sea.

Joan Leotta
Author, Story Performer
“Encouraging words through Pen and Performance”
Giulia Goes to War, Letters from Korea, A Bowl of Rice, Secrets of the Heart.
historical fiction in Legacy of Honor Series
Simply a Smile--collection of Short Stories
WHOOSH! Picture book from THEAQ 
You can download a mini-chapbook of my poems at

Find out more about my work at


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