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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning EarthPoems
February 2004

 


2.2.2004


I watch snow sift from above
the pool of light I’m in,
and I sing the light electric.
Snowflakes glint and glitter
with every shift of sight.
This crystal flour falls steady
as the heartbeat of earth, as if
it would drift forever in a Fimbulwinter,
but it is lovely and agleam now
with a light bulb burning with the great
coal forests of the Carboniferous, ancient
sunlight stored these endless years
which I spend now to watch
the selfsame water that fed
cycads and tree ferns now crystalled
into snowflakes sifting down, and I am warm
in my pool of electric light.

 

How marvelous that Earth can store energy for eons, whearas we pinnacles of creation can store it for the life of a battery. We spendthrift burn the coal and gas and oil, but electric light in snow does have its magics for the eye.

 

2.3.2004


While snow falls steadily I meet
a crow who just may be well-mannered.
With a certain politesse he sits a branch
above the feeder while
small birds throng the seed.
He does not flap in all menace black and huge;
something seems to hold him back
from scattering the lesser birds. But wait:
Here come the rest! Five more crows
descend upon the feeder like hunger
in the night. Jays scream and flee,
finches fly scattershot, and the
polite crow turns out a scout
who joins the mob now raking seeds
with beaks of polished black.

Crows care no more for overnight conversions than do I. The scout, a young bird I think, serves to assure the family of safety. Then, like us, they take what they need. I admire their consistent corvid intelligence.


2.4.2004


Snow has softened every crotch in trees,
covered sides of every rugged trunk.
Level branches dark with bark
are lined atop with snow, gaps
where birds have perched.


Wayward breezes spray
spindrift crystals through sharp light,
a feast of sparkles for the eye,
and every squirrel leap
from branch to bordered branch
sifts more bright into deep blue.

 


Sunny days grace us after long-falling snow, and the beauty of ice crystals continuing down from trees makes me glad for gravity.


2.9.2004


The great hawk must have sat a treetop,
eyes the only motion,
not circled sky, for he did not stoop
down like a spear from God, but
swept down in a shallow curve
wings flat, talons wide, as

Earth tilted, time yawed as every winter life
fled into holes or brush,
went stone still with staccato heart.


The redtail swooped low across
the white of pond and missed
the cottontail it craved, ignored all
the helter-skelter feeder birds,
folded talons and beat to the top
branch of a maple, where it watched as
time and earth and steady hearts returned.

 

The attack of a great predator changes the earth. The moment is brief but profound. It speaks in every cell of times when we were prey. It is raw beauty combined with deep relief.

 

2.10.2004


Snow softens all
that is sharp,
blurs all edges except
shadowcast of moon
that stretches tree trunk rulers
across night’s snowscape.
Beyond sharp shadows of trees
and houses hard-edged, unruled
snow glows bright as the mother
pearl that rolls across starred dark,
bright as moongleam in the eye
of the deer at the feeder,
the rabbit musing in the driveway.

 

Moon after moon our albedo grows, as inch after inch of fresh snow renews night’s glow.


2.12.2004

Out past the birches
a crow flies up from snow,
something in its beak,
something dangling, dark.
When the crow lands on an oak
a red squirrel sways, goes limp again.


I am ten, red squirrels
rummage me for nuts. Little
clawed feet inside my pockets,
the triumph of the squirrel as it pops out
with a peanut and races downleg
and up the big red pine. Their fur is the color
of dropped needles. When they race
across needles by the trunk,
they vanish, reappear ten feet up.


The triumph of the boy who found
enough stillness to seem harmless.
How alive it all was!


I admire crows, but not today,
when one hunts red squirrels,
even one foolish enough to
run across daytime snow.


So eat it. I’m tired
of seeing it dangle, long
rusty tail awave. Must be young.


Mine were never tame, stayed wild,
stayed always cautious.
Those skinny long-toed feet.

 

Life is surprise. Crows are opportunistic predators. My ignorance looms.


2.13.2004


Moon is halved, looks lumpy,
rides awkward in day sky.
No sickle sliver she, nor
full round harmony.
Even her mares look flat & dull.
We all have times of bumpy
in-between, out-of-phase,
but poor Moon struggles
to return to grace
thirteen times a year.
I don’t know how she does it.

 

The classic male admission. Females are amazing. All is flow.


2.16.2004


Bright sun. Cold.
Two black squirrels cavort
through pure country snow.
They pause nearby. Crystals
glance in plush black fur deep
as the kind of summer night sky
you want to fall up into.

 

The contrast of black fur against bright white snow evokes another. Hurry up, please. It’s time.


2.17.2004

Six swans sudden in my eyes,
long swans, black bills leading,
black feet last. The rest,
all the lovely neck,
wide wings and torso
purest white against gray sky.
Forty feet up and gone
over the house, silent as my gape.
Six white tundra swans
stretch me wide, spread me out
across the winter sky.

 

What an unexpected blessing in February. Tundra swans (aka whistling swans) will winter over where they can find open water. There are some on the Mississippi near Monticello. I don’t know where, north of me, these came from. They flew south.


2.18.2004


Eighteen below,
first light pale.
Below the feeder a cock pheasant
hops on one foot to scratch in snow,
between hops sweeps his beak
through snow as if starving.
as he hops to scratch his other foot
enters pale light. He holds the foot high.
It dangles. Long toes curl up
like a scaled fist. I look at my own
clutched paw, wonder
how his happened. But I am warm.


A pheasant is beauty spoken by light,
shibui, revealed more deeply the closer
the eye
.


A pheasant is feet and wings, mostly feet—
would rather run than fly, scratches
through snow to layered leaves where
seeds and bugs are stored by cold.
The bird’s heat lives there, but he can’t
scratch his way down. He can’t
bury himself in insulating snow. He burns
with desire but cold will win.

 

My paw is clutched in stroke paralysis. Nature is the mirror we see our selves in. Robinson Jeffers said “Meteors are not needed less than mountains.”


2.20.2004

In dusk’s wet cold, nine deer,
five does, five large fawns behind the house.
Twins hang back, browse pond's edge willows
while a third approaches a stocky doe
who chases him away. Something’s
gobbled all the corn, so the deer
browse brush while they range about.
As they chew twigs their jaws swap sides.
The chased fawn, close now, lifts
his black nose high to sample breeze.
His nostrils flare. Mine open too.


Value your physical responses to other children of the earth.
These simple moments of connectedness are worth celebrating.
They are old as time.

 


2.23.2004

Our snow is raindrop pocked,
melting onto frozen soil,
running off. On the ponds it
pools upon thick ice. Untimely
February thaw. But the birds,
the quiet winter songbirds
have begun again to sing.
Cardinals chime from tree to bush to tree,
renewing bonds. Out back
beyond the marsh, broody owls are laying eggs.
Raccoons have wakened to this warm,
waft fragrances across the territory:
C’mon. It’s time!
Down in old woodchuck dens, small pink rabbits squirm
upon a bed of fur plucked from mother’s breast.
Almost.

 

As our exterior thaw goes on, we northerners sense a loosening within. Even with another month or two of snow ahead, we know cold shackles will fall from us.


2.24.2004

This fog is as almost white
as the melting snow that mothered it.
Eyes hang within a droplet mist
that suspends all distances and time.
At the edges gray trees lift out of sight.
Earth is strange and pale until
Blue jays arrive and remind the sky.
As snow slumps into itself,
small birds foraging in the prickly ash
announce the future
in voices winter-thinned but
sweet to the ear as nests and spring.

 

So often morning is filled with promises, today to the eyes and to the ears. I especially enjoy the blue of jays against gray overcast, as if these bits of sky were lobbying for clear.

 

2.25.2004

Crystal snow has devolved
into red mud that that evolved
From vast Cretaceous swamps
that sucked early reptiles down.
It sucks now shoes of a clumsy
two-legged ape, who postures,
one leg high, wobbling like a cobra
as it seeks a drier spot to place its shrinking foot…
but no, the foot and shoe are doomed.
It enters mud and sinks.
The ape watches mud rise up,
paint leather red as now
the other foot sucks up and free
and wobbles in its pathetic quest
to find a drier place to be.

 

2.27.2004


A great hawk sweeps gray sky
above the tallest oaks, tilts and turns
his hunting circle, soars, looks below
until a movement on the ground
is pinned within the circle of his eye.
Folds his wings and falls with talons wide.

 

Once plants seize it from the sun, energy transfers from life to life. These unending transfers can be regarded as continual tragedies, evidence of the essential cruelty of earth. This is one choice, but it’s a shallow one. Or, you can regard these transfers as the essential shared sacrament of life.