With a split black hoof that gleams
she scrapes bright crystals into air
to expose corn stubble.
The doe has not the usual grace.
Her barrel is thick with fawn,
her nose deep in snow
to snuffle out fallen corn,
she’s eating for two, or three.
Here is the hard time for winter life,
the winnowing of all weak.
May this doe browse the tender twigs,
May spring be early and green,
May her fawns be lightfoot and free.
Days above zero again! Sun!
A broken icicle begins to regrow.
A film of each released droplet freezes
and stays behind to grow,
as at the tip, a tear pulls down.
Oaks cluster in the mirror.
At 12,000 feet, the mountain bluebird
surveys the nearby peaks.
I wonder what he sees. Does he see
the blue surround of altitude?
That lapis lazuli the poets praised?
Or is this amazing sky too everyday?
Suddenly he launches toward me
blue more flashing deep
than any cut of stone or sky.
The bones of autumn carry promise.
Weed skeletons still carry seeds.
This stalk encloses each seed in a heart
so when it falls, it will spin away,
as a heart will when it takes a new path.
Willy-nilly a heartseed lands, and with luck
sprouts and roots in warming soil.
Flowers of winter sun etch
sere bones against cold sky,
still tall, strong enough
for wind so far.
These stubborn seed heads
resonate as they sway,
thrum like plucked bass notes
inside me, linked like to like.
At times, nature’s mirror is too close.
From a brief thaw emerges history.
Snowmelt became crystal yesterday,
some went liquid to wake lichen green.
Fallen five-needle clusters
record the autumn end of a white pine.
The cold charred wood below the needles
recalls the heat of fire from years after
the older pine was cut and its bare stump
left to collect these scraps of time.
The six-sided columnar ice crystal is wonderfully large.
Trumpeter swans feed
in a puddled farm field.
White swans probe brown mud,
unaware they are symbols of grace,
but perhaps this day in mud
intuiting that French symbolist poets
gave swans melancholy too.
Sometimes our nonsense fits.
In foaming tide, seeking,
gray willet finds color
in the setting sun
as light paints all things
The willet in winter, unless in flight, is drab gray, with a white breast. Say “willet in winter” three times. Cherish your tongue.
Surfbirds flee the crash of wave
as they do a hundred times a day.
The best morsels find beaks just before
waves slash the rocky shore.
Quick wings amaze.
After food and surf-spray,
a surfbird oils its feathers before sleep.
The half-closed eye gives it away.
Surf-hunting makes a body pay.
They are large and ruthless,
race along trails, race right up jeans,
They are the color of old fire, will
inject you with fire’s chemical truth,
with mandibles will bite your skin,
arch abdomens and in a circle sting.
Do not kneel close to photograph the nest.
To leave fire ants be is best
or you will submit to one fiery test.
This has been a public service announcement.
These companions of the moment share shapes
carved of wind and light, tapered feathers
and bayonets of yucca leaves, one
stiff and sharp to cut a browser’s mouth,
one flexible and soft to sculpt clear wind and ride.
In the Joshua tree a ladderback woodpecker
grips stiff fibers desert dry as it scans blue sky
for raptors that find small birds a juicy treat.
The Joshua tree is old and slow, grows
two finger-widths a year, if winter rains arrive.
Elbows and curves in Joshua stems look abrupt
but contort themselves over seasons, long dry years.
The woodpecker is new, ephemeral as a damselfly.
If this Joshua had eyes, a hundred generations
of ladderbacks would have landed and flicked by.
Veins cracked open, a broken cattail leaf
reminds me it is a fountain, root to tip of leaf,
a paced rush of water sucked into white roots,
pulled up through these long veins to apex
where liquid meets air and wells out vapor unseen.
I see water vapor one summer’s day:
oaks and willows shimmer with release
from each green leaf like desert-rising heat,
great green fountains lifting into sky.
The whole wetland wavers in my eyes,
myriad fountains joining again to baptize air
with what will be clouds in sky east somewhere.
One day in winter wind
a scrap of dry lichen left
a tree’s bark, spun
and landed on snow and sat.
From grey clouds came sun
to warm the lichen more
than white snow, so it sank
deep into melting snow
that wet the lichen green,
woke it up and said, “Grow.”
A relict fern frond emerges
from a sagging drift.
The leaflets on one side
gone as if never,
a grief borne,
but those left show
the strength of age,
curled and dry like old skin,
structure below it surfacing,
the painting beneath the painting
uncovered in beauty at last.
In a frozen marsh that has been for ages
a cattail marsh that perched singing
redwings on swaying stems,
seedpods lie on winter-worn cattail leaves.
A pretty flower made these seeds,
millions in each purse,
that will grow unchecked
and crowd to death the native cattails
that shelter snipe and turtles,
build muskrat domes, grow
dragonflies and minnows,
let sing the frogs, create the fluff
that warms the nests of marsh wrens.
The pretty flower is the invasive purple loosestrife, which is choking out our native marsh flora and greatly reducing habitat and numbers of native animals.
A feather fell from a passing bird,
lazed its way down air, landed
in a sphagnum bog still wintering.
Ice jewels gleam from dry heath stems.
Below the feather, moss red with cold,
new green beginnings.
Near feather tip, a tiny seed cup
on a stem refills itself with light.
Harbingers of change from a taller sun are welcomed, but often with a tinge of loss.
After a February thaw, running
water forms a glassy hand
and reaches toward crystal ice.
I’m not sure I should be seeing this.
Will the hand reach up to break reforming ice?
Or will those fingers caress the crystals to inspire?
I strip off my mitt and look at my hand in air
that wants ice inside my capillaries.
Pink skin encloses bone and moving water
without the clarity of stream and ice.
Ice is water held hard, solidified.
Water likes to flow—to keep moving
is how water knows it is alive.
I know the glassy water hand has been
cracking ice since dawn was a pink dream,
I know because the hand strives upstream.
As you are aware, you and I are 60 percent water, our brains, 90 percent. Water takes many forms and many shapes, such as brains and fingered hands.
A simple blade of grass against snow,
a simple curve from a broken stem,
green vanished months ago.
Black spots draw the eye, a pattern
of fungus fruits that still shine
as if to show that spores, like seeds,
winter-over fine and will grow.
But this simple grassblade curve
owns a grace, a dignity, a bow to fate:
I grew, I greened, I suffered,
fed my root and curl now back to soil.
The goal is simple, really--feed your root, renew the Earth that gave you birth.
An old oak leaf will not leave
whatever winter brings.
Its veins protrude from gray,
its substance sinks,
it clings like an insistent shroud.
Beneath bleached gray, though,
through this tired cold,
fall color glows, reddish brown
sparked with glints of gold.
In fresh snow a trail of tracks,
an animal traverses night.
At the end of the tracks,
one leap, danger sensed,
and the trail ends.
Then the tracks
of the great horned owl.
Eggs are hatching now.
Owlets burrow under feathers,
find the warm skin.
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