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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
February 2003



A warm winter day.
In their field, horses play.
two black, two buckskin, a paint.
Canter and gallop, it's Tag, it's Chase,
but above all, Running in warm.
One black retires to the barn…
Neck arched, slow high trot, he's out
and leading the pack in canter,
two buckskins, a paint and two blacks.


White Stockings lies down
on her back to roll in snow,
Haunches and rump
roll up legs high, fall back,
Rump rolls up, up, rests, rolls back
Finally she recalls her great skull,
throws it first as
her rump rolls up, up, holds,
and all the way around.


What gifts horses give us when they play. Their gamboling is so huge, their strength without effort. The play's the thing.



Snow falls twice today.
Wind picks up
and blows off spumes of snow
and wetter snow in clumps
from every branch and bole of every tree.
Some snow drifts and vanishes upon
the depth that fell before, some
plumps straight down, pocks
pure surfaces. After whirling
in the clouds to grow crystal ice
and sliding down the wraiths of night,
this morning, snow falls twice.


Finally our world is white and right. The lily bulbs cry thanks, and earthworms tired of digging deeper every day against the frost. Roots of every tree sense the weight of blessed water on their soil and know they'll drink. None of this is true. All of this is true.


Say you're going under, say
you're reaching down
with fingertips for eyes.
First is heavy snow, broken
crystals densely crushed.
Beneath that lost leaves laid all
the wind's directions,
flattened, soaked, but
a vein warmer on the down side
where microbes slowly breathe
even in this cold,
and spores of fungi wait
with the corpse litter
of wriggler, springtail
and protist they will reduce
when the melting frees
and earthworm digs its way up
to pull lost leaves down holes
and the minerals of their casting
percolate down once more
to be seized by roots and fungi,
pumped up the fountain into buds
and sing green again in light as leaves.
Say you're reaching up.


The wave lifts and falls, the sap drops and pumps up, seasons wax and wane, so the fortunes of all lives in the sine wave of existence.



White in tree-elbows
knocks loose, sifts down.
Black is a hole in the eye,
mystery past fathom
(but you don't put your hand in there).
Old Oak feels the claw feet of the black squirrel
wind a helix up coarse bark and burls,
A gray squirrel chases the black,
her own tight spiral drawn.
Snow sifts down. When the racing spirals
reach the crag where lightning
raved half Old Oak down,
and rot has come to hollow wood,
the black squirrel slows and slows
as if he runs in thick water.
When the gray intersects the helix
of the black, she finds a new hole
sunk in Old Oak, deep and velvet black.
In she dives.


Mystery is at the core, or aging eyes. At times it's hard to tell which. I did watch this mystery of amour unfold.



Twenty below this morning!

In the pool of headlights white
tresses sidle the black, undulant.
All along the roadside running
blue shadows where wind has carved
mouth-shapes for glaciers, mountain streams.
Behind bright-lit drifts, azure deltas,
steel canyons, folds of slate, blue
shadow curves in moving snow.


Night driving in a snowy landscape makes me praise the light bulb and direct current. Sculptures made by wind in snow are as softly curved as forms licked in salt or soil by deer tongues.



It is minus ten degrees.
Birds perch high in trees
to receive the first gold rays.
Horses in the field play
arch your neck and trot, rear
like the stallions they are not.
Sky turns blue to mount the jewel
of the oblate sun breaking the horizon.
The ringneck in the feeder knows
his cheeks of fire are about to glow.
It begins, it lifts, our daily benison.


'Benison' is an old church word that means benediction, blessing. Earth life never stops heralding the sunrise, the lift of hope, even in this bitter cold.



Under winter feeders, a history of day:
This afternoon, the bold scale-toed track of turkeys.
A layer down, an hour of pheasant scratching, then
opossum with her mittened thumb.
Before them, songbirds' lizard toes--sparrows,
juncos, a sketch of many doves, there a mouse
and finally cardinal, the very
first, the fire that welcomed sun.

An inch or two of fresh snow teaches you to read backwards, and to look before you put your big foot down.



Bright sun. Cold blue sky.
A young redtail hawk
sits in a dead elm, still as gray wood.
He watches turkeys and ringnecks
scratch snow for seed.
His eyes are gold and wide.
The top of his beak yellow,
the hooked tip gleams blue-black.
Pheasant breasts iridesce bronze,
the feathers of tom turkeys
segue green gold red.

When the hawk shifts,
the dove who sat near him
chitters off.
Hawk is sculpted in sun,
his eyes are gold and watch.
Jays and juncos fly about freely,
redtail doesn't burn in their brains.
Squirrels have gone to cover.
When the pileated woodpecker
flaps black-white-black
across the hawk's gold eyes,
one wing stirs, subsides.

The hawk's concentration on what is, right now, is astonishing. It is the stare of a quintessential predator. Yet it is without ego, an elder kind of Keats' negative capability. How wonderful it also is that the species memory of small birds can so easily distinguish between a redtailed hawk and a Cooper’s hawk, which does eat birds.



Snow magics moon, stores
her light within crystals where
it vibrates lattices of broken stars so
well snow offers itself back to moon
as serene and boreal glow
with a cast of blue.
The eye expects processions.


Full moon, sharp shadows and glowing snow is a true magic of the north.



Run down the bark.
Wrinkle your nose and sniff.
Dig down through snow.
Winkle out the acorn you smelled.
Acorn in jaws, run up the bark.
Sit the branch upright, tail to back.
Acorn in hands, snow bewhiskered,
Spin the shell, chew out the meat.
Eat fast. Groom.
Run down the bark.
Collect new snow on whiskers.
Wrinkle and winkle.


The eating habits of the gray squirrel are as charming as their noses are astounding; they can smell an acorn through two feet of snow.


In the completion of the moon
shadow shapes of oaks flow out
forever against night snow.

The direction of forever slowly
wheels as we turn toward dawn,
but the direction of the moon never

alters as she wraps the earth
in gyres, constant as the curve
of earth and her cold love
about starfire, the true
direction of forever.

Writing some poems requires, in Wm. Stafford's phrase, recognizing and following a golden thread, with no foreknowledge of where it will take you. Moonshadows shape the night with silver threads.



A deer trail curves into bright trees.
Deep tracks slump edges in warm air.
Each widening hoof-cup cradles
its own cured oakleaf.


Simple things are rarely as plain as first glance suggests. Fitness, or things-as-they-should-be, is a recognition of subtle beauties.



Water burbles hollow
in the downspouts,
drums within long drains,
dances in new puddles
on the frozen driveway gravel,
changes phase all day,
slumps from crystals into liquid H2O,
happys all the chickadees
and English sparrows bathing,
It's warm, it's wet, it's warm!


There is nothing like a February thaw to lift the spirits, even in the knowledge that next week it will be ten below, even in the knowledge that a few weeks back we begged for snow.



When the stone spoke our names
we held its river roundness.
When the hill reared in our path
we went a-round.

When socket-stone held the centerpost
we slept within the circle.
When the mask was worn, and dance
born, we wove the circle of other.

When we followed the deer trail
we followed the curve of the sine.
When white skulls were worn
we became the ancestors' circle.

When we are lost and walk and walk
we cross our trails, find beginnings.
When child becomes maiden-mother-woman wise,
When child becomes warrior-father-elder,
we complete a round in sacred time.

We move in curves,
we know eternal circles
when the shapes of the land
are the shapes of our lives.


We cross our own trails to discover we are lost. And here we are again.



Something's in the air.
In last week's thaw, cardinals
sang each to each.
Today at ten below
redbellied woodpeckers
keep close company, while
turkey toms spread their tails,
inflate red throats and strut slow circles.
In the feeder, a pheasant cock
Table-turns three crows, screams
and thrusts his open beak at them,
ringneck a wide ruff.
Three crows fly off with questions.
Something's in the air. It's light.
We all obey the growing day.


Day length triggers the spring hormones. Temperature is not involved, nor is choice.



Four huge bison stand on a roll of hill
just emerged from hoof-packed snow.
Behind them the oblate sun through distant trees.
Black noses lightly shine.
As one bull turns his head, a gleam of eye
from shaggy dark that tumbles up to hump.
They simply stand,
as grazers have stood forever
in the dawn of day.


Bison have such essential dignity. As with many animals, now we see their beauty with a tinge of shame and sadness.

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