Barbara Nickel

Mourning Dove, Rain Dove

I was reading James Agee and this thing he did with “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” set for soprano and orchestra by Samuel Barber, this piece I’ve loved for years.

Agee took about ninety minutes and didn’t revise, just published what he came up with.

So I set myself the same restrictions; no fussing, revising, just getting it down because I needed to write something, it’s been so long.

I invite you in.



Mourning dove, rain dove, turtle dove on a telephone wire. Hear it coo in the mind of the evening previous when the silken spider threads are hung with the spray from the garden hose, curtains up, windows open once again so the house can take in the night, sound of spray down deep into the roots of the blue spruce, the sweet gum, the phlox, the yew, the lavender, the old rose, the fig, the peaches ripening, slightly pocked and the yarrow dying brown and past its prime, summer savory gone to flower and the nasturtiums, marigolds, the unruly arugula, sweet basil and kale, most of the sour cherry lost to the winter, all night these roots drinking silently from the spray of this evening, swimmers at the lake sometime long ago toweled dry and slowly in their cars down the long mountain road and waiting in the ice cream line, the little lights in the cherry tree near the bishop’s hat and the lime green hydrangea balloons and the Persian ivy taking its time, year after year never climbing high and covering the fence as it should, but there among the Welsh poppy stalks spreading yellow and orange in thoughts of spring, slipping its seeds into the weeds unseen in the night about to slip into September but not there yet, when the weeds grow thick in the night, oxalis, buttercup, quack grass, morning glory in the cedars to snip and unravel from the raspberry canes in the day when things must be done.

Day of doves when the living is done, the laundry strung up on the new clothesline, and the sky is clear of clouds day after day after day and thoughts drift to rain and when will it come, and what if, and no, and how many summers still out with the hose, the water soaking each one down to the roots and nights of the fan turning overhead and a breeze, sleep and the train and a breeze and memory of the lemon scent of some weed crushed in a meadow ridden through on a bike, that meadow laden with daisy and foxglove after the cool winding shade of some ancient trees.



Dear Peter, Dear Ulla has been selected as a finalist for the 2023/2024 Chocolate Lily Book Award. 

Barbara’s poem “Three-in-One,” originally published in Grain Magazine, has recently appeared in Best Canadian Poetry 2024  (Biblioasis) edited by Bardia Sinaee.

Check out Barbara’s 45-minute teaching video on Creating Believable Characters for the BC and Yukon Book Prizes’ In Class video library.

Dear Peter, Dear Ulla was a finalist for the 2022 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.

Dear Peter, Dear Ulla has been nominated for the 2023 Rocky Mountain Book Award (Alberta Young Readers Choice Award).

The Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards (MYRCA) has nominated Dear Peter, Dear Ulla as a 2023 Northern Lights (Grades 7-9) finalist!

Essential Tremor reviewed in The Vancouver Sun. Read full review here.

Dear Peter, Dear Ulla is reviewed and “Highly Recommended” in CM (Canadian Review of Materials)! Read the full review here.

View All News

Author Visits

Interested in booking Barbara to visit your school or library? Choose from a wide range of presentations, from poetry workshops to readings of historical fiction.

Learn More