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John Caddy
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John Caddy's

Morning Earth Poems
January 2008


Shadows of cattail stems on snow
reveal the truth of wind-drift forms
as snow reveals the truth
of shaped land below its white.
Simple lines of darkness
shape the seeing eye
to perceive within the mind
a space with breadth and height and depth
made deeper far with time
and season’s inclination.

The country of the mind has always four dimensions.


The great predator pins me with its eye.
I feel awkward, for I have seen what I would not.
Five minutes back I watched this hunter
eat a mouse that went down wrong.
The redtail gagged and coughed beak stretched,
in ways we don’t want watched,
but in truth a hawk could not care less
what this ungainly creature sees or saw.
Before is done, and now is all.

I know the hawk has pictures in its mind
of proper prey, the way a cat knows mouse
or a beagle bells a rabbit in its dream.
I wonder if, in the redtail’s ancient gallery,
some primate leaps, and would
I measure up, or am I too outré?

Seems I would rather be considered prey than be ignored or seen simply as a nuisance. Odd. Must work on that body hair.


Wind and crystal snow
assemble again the dancer,
fluid through slow dark
who leaves behind her growing
draperies that in morning sunlight
cause the heart to ache

The incredible sculptures that snow and wind create are born from broken arms of snowflakes that hook to others, thus stretch into forms that defy gravity and enchant the eye.



In January cold and snow, much
is impossible of belief:

Once upon a time
a furry day moth
sucked nectar from
starflowers, unrolled
its coiled tongue
to curve into each flower’s heart,
while the flower proferred pollen
to the moth’s furred thighs
so the pollen would fertilize
another starflower as the moth
sipped from bloom to bloom.

Sure. Right. All white,
no green, flowerless--
a sweet fairytale from lotus land.

In the north, we survive winter by forgetting, which makes spring an ever more surprising delight.





Whitefoot went traveling just at dawn
across a world refreshed with white but warm
enough to stay on top instead of tunneling
nose-first through fresh snow.
Between the tracks of tiny feet the drag
of tail grooved in crystals packed by the gravity
that pulled them down from sky, and at dawn
pulled down the whitefoot mouse’s shivering tail.


Each winter track tells a story; this one even tells the temperature.



A sea otter pops up from estuary mud
with a clam near as big as her head.
Between two webbed toes she holds
a stone to crack the shell, a stone
smooth and small enough for toes
or fit an armpit overnight,
good to cradle on her chest
to pound a clam against
or crack a crab
with her strong forepaws.

Sea otters have been using stone tools for some three million years, somewhat longer than our folks.



As the red shouldered hawk eyes
the tapestry below
for the food he knows moves there
he screams the cry most wild.
Life on Earth is a fabric.
The hawk’s cry is the awl
that pierces sky
To topstitch life’s fabric whole
across a continent.
These eyes resist
the tearing.



A horse gazes for a time at falling snow
that grows on unfallen leaves,
strolls to the young oak, lifts
his head to snow-capped leaves
and deftly lips up the snow
which is suddenly a drink.
I watch his throat—it takes
half a sapling’s load of snow
to supply a horse’s swallow.

The horse knows that snow has many active aspects, but he
keeps it simple and just satisfies his thirst.


January eagles perch near their nest
far from winter fishing.
Squirrels chase through branches,
great horned owls soon will hoot
winter into owlets, gardeners
page through flowers, daylight
lingers through late afternoon.
Eagles know the vole runs,
Earth prepares to spring,
welcome sap to dry trunks,
and dance the beat of newborn blood.

Eagles returned to the nest on January 13. A fine harbinger of rebirth.



Elegant is the word
for the pintail drake,
or is it grace?

White neckpiece
with leaping line,
Brown dark head

sets off a beak of platinum,
Dove-gray body feathers
smooth the waterways,

black-edged primaries
tousle folded wings,
that sweet disorder--

the long sharp tail
held high.

Do you suppose
he knows?



Jackrabbit pauses in flight
to show how he can catch
slant sun in his ears, color light
with blood, as you saw with
a flashlight through your fingers
as a kid. I see the notch in
Jack’s right ear, where a hawk
who thought to catch a jackrabbit
learned that big wide eyes can
catch a shadow just in time.

Mark how the rabbit paused next to a reddish bush as if to complement his ears.


Sunset is everyday, mundane, as ordinary
as waves sloshing up a beach, so the cynic
finds no worth in such ephemera. But open eyes
see such miracles that are never twice the same.
The wind that makes the wave
grows from sunfire, and from
the same spin of Earth that makes sun fall and rise,
the pull of moon that tugs the tides.

Sunfall behind a veil of clouds is a shifting glory
that pierces humans to the heart,
father of the campfire flames that compel
our atavistic eyes, the hunger rarely quenched.
It all comes down to fire,
that warms us, brights us, feeds us,
and every evening falls fiery down horizons
to begin again the truth of dying and reviving
and bid to us good night.



Snow believes that every Y of branches
is a bowl that it should fill if breeze allows.
Snow reveals edges unseen before
the clusters grow, patterns there but new,
paths of reaching up for light,
choices made to branch, re-branch, each Y
drawn clear below pure fallen snow.

Choice. To branch or not to branch.
Y or I. Which will reach more light?



On the pond, wind shapes snow
into organic shapes of flow as if
to prove alive the work of wind and snow.
Four clean-edged vertebrae rise from ice
as if the backbone of a fossil saurian
scoured from rock by desert winds,
and smoothed to tactile curves.
Wind and water shape our bodies all.
From deep time, we living bodies
are responses to their flow.




Winter without shadow would be drab
to the sculpting eye, flat to the hands
children and artists use to sculpt air,
no hummock scapes to catch shadow
and send it to their valley-bowls.

Would the people of the North want
to do without their Winter Blues
or black foreshortened selves on snow
or long black selves sprawled before?


At twenty below, incredibly,
water splashes from a culvert
between iced pools
in the wildlife refuge.
It drops into a seething ring
of unfrozen water where,
along the rim of ice, bubbles of splash
pile up and freeze, a creampuff
of thin ice-bubble shells,
offered to our eyes for texture,
and for crisp, to our imagined tongues.



Young blue jays are sudden into flight.
When their elders leave the feeder
they leap so quickly from the snow to feed
that finger wide primaries cut fresh snow
like feather-tipped knives.

Tracks are footprints.
Feet are what we do, we land bound.
Tracks of feet are one thing,
tracks of flight are something else.
The etch of owl wings at the end
of a rabbit’s trail, a mystery of night.
Feather cuts where a hawk leaped up
from white to sky of winter distant blue.
Feather cuts record unbound lives
escaping weight, subverting gravity,
a map of moments read with smiles.

Bless snow for carrying so many stories to our eyes.


Air is pure and bitter calm.
Land is white with snow, bright
even in this January night,
for sister moon shines full
through cirrus thin,
and wakens somehow color
in this night, even this cold glow
finds colors waiting in the buds of oak,
waxing in the catkins of the birch,
as we wait for south winds and rebirth.

Twenty below here last night, again. The great horned owls are mating, and of course, the acrobatic squirrels.



She seeks the hardest woods to hammer
seeds with her perfect chisel beak
as she holds them tight in scaled toes.
Chickadee owns the expertise earned
by eons of rehearsal beneath the aurora borealis.
In her old eye lives the wax and wane
of moons uncountable,
and the lean of sun to south
to shorten days in the season orbit of forever.
She knows how to slap the seedhead
of the goldenrod with a passing wing
to speckle snow with seeds
she holds as well in her shining eye
that knows so much,
and not a thing she doesn’t need.



Winter cold in the rainforest.
Melting snow coats the top of the half-fallen log,
soaks the heavy moss below.
Round spore capsules dangle toward the core.
Moss leaves glow green as low sunlight weaves through
and once again the microcosm pours into my eye
the whole soaked and lively tapestry.

Earth’s beauty retains its subtlety at every measure, every distance.



A feeding pheasant senses observing eyes
compelled by his brocaded splendor
of his overlapping feather eyes.
He lifts up, beak working can’t see
watchers but knows he must fly.
He has honed his intuitions of hunters
for some millions of years. We are
nothing new. It is good that he fears.



At the touch of dawn, Olympic peaks
assert power over foothill, forest, sea,
but not sun and not sky, for these mountains
sleep unseen, do not exist
until sun calls them forth each dawn
and shocks them into sky.