Say there’s a part of the pond
where the wind thins snow.
Say there’s a full moon
on a clear cold night, and deer.
Say the deer find a rhythm
crossing the pond, and they
start swinging their gait
just a bit, and let their hind dew claws
score this moon-rhythm into the snow
which is just the right depth
Say it’s this moon on a cold clear night
with deer walking below drawing on snow.
Two young bulls take a break in their duel.
They contest by pushing, shoving
that elephant seal tonnage with only
small fore flippers to do the work.
Rests are without choice, mutual.
That roll of seal eyes rolls back time
to fist fights I had to fight and fought in despair.
My eyes, I’m sure, had that piteous look:
“Oh Damn! Drowned in hormones again!”
Few become Beachmasters.
Whirling snow and cold do not distract
this maiden woodpecker from her food.
Her three-clawed feet pay no mind to wind.
Even her first winter, when so many die,
does not impede the volume of her cackle,
for pileateds laugh across distance.
Come spring she will listen for the drum
of a male hammering a nesting roost
from a large dead tree
to please a pretty red-capped
maiden unfazed by cold and snow.
Stubborn ironwood leaves found
crystal embellishment last night, a gift
of water vapor and its freezing point,
when hoarfrost began to grow its own
ferny leaves right upon the old dun
ironwood leaves too stubborn to fall.
In hours the frost will vanish into air,
as if to show the old leaves how it’s done.
Arrive, be beautiful, be gone.
The fluid flow of broken snowflakes
through a wide and frozen night
erodes softness from the drift,
etches ridged verticals that voice
topographies cut by water flow,
the kind I see from a plane
over badlands miles below.
Now fluid air carves snow.
Then fluid water cut rock with
such slow fluency
it leaves my brief mind
adrift in canyons of time.
Wind last night was bitter driving snow
that grew pointy overhanging tongues
to give its drifts their edged attitude.
The wind has splintered flakes of snow
that whole were crystalline perfection.
Sharp edges of the crystal arms catch
and grasp each other to grow
sharp insulted tongues of snow.
These drifts are a mélange
of soft and sharp, of curve and point,
shapes of sensibility unforeseen
in splintered flakes of water ice.
Are they as surprised as I?
I am relieved that if they speak
with these odd tongues, their speech,
sharp as may be, only squeaks to me.
A flicker wonders where the easy suet went.
Her colors stun, and patterns.
Black breast-spots against amber,
black bib, russet throat intense around her eyes,
black-barred back on brown,
Yellow shafts bright along her primaries,
gray cap with carmine chevron for a nape.
Her unwiped beak shows suet, and at the nib,
the very tip of that barbed tongue
that curls around her skull ‘till called
by delectable ants tart with formic acid.
Whitetails meander as they travel night,
but not in such cold nor this much snow.
This cornfield planted for the deer
has magnetized their hooves.
No leaps, no casual sidetracks,
just a straight tight path
to corn hanging in the husk.
This snow, this grip of cold,
these nights of blue moonglow.
The spirit of the stream
leaps up to catch the light
where ice could not close this hole
bedazzled with bright splash.
The spirit takes the minnow form,
leaps up in a taut arch fins agleam
to show it won’t be held for long
by cold or snow or lustrous ice.
Shadows of warm-grown grasses
loop and curl in blue on snow,
each blade dried in death to arcs
while its green lost itself in brown.
What stands above a foot of snow
paints the curves of cycling life,
arcs of orbit as the season turns,
shadows stronger now that sun
has climbed above horizon trees,
these shapes a consolation to
white roots entranced below,
blue curves a sketch of summer
shadows made from green.
A pair of cormorants gaze upon
winter sea beneath the sun.
The birds seem relaxed as
the aqua-shallow water. Hunt
has filled their bellies for this time.
I wonder: do their bills tilt up
in the synchrony of pair bond,
like human spouses coupled long?
A forest boreal grew right on top of snow
last night late, a pine forest of the north writ small,
as if water vapor learned this crystal template
from its clouds observing pine and spruce below.
Or did the gymnosperms learn shape
and branch from hoarfrost epochs long ago?
A leaf translucent with age,
fallen at last to return,
nestles in an old animal track
soothed with small snowfalls.
This bit of winter Earth is undulant
and smooth, waiting to dissolve,
quiet, a little blue.
Earth breathed out last night
the instant she wished to crystallize.
Sun woke to see these her jewels,
and to savor joy, turned the welkin blue.
Beneath this festival of light
we fill our lungs with clear delight.
Soon this moss exuberance
will greet our every eye that widens.
This moss of autumn last
radiates a kind of hope
pushing up through gray leaves,
as our boreal spirits prepare
to lift again toward high sun,
for we know that under snow
moss rosettes have wintered green.
Where a stream-mouth feeds
the River St. Croix beneath
a frosty sun, ice is royal blue
even where it skims,
white curves of airy ice
and snow, and flowered frost,
Earth’s stone brown tongue
to remind ice and flow
that they are not the only
artists working this stream-mouth.
Sharp teeth reach toward the sundered twin.
Ice tries to close again the running stream.
From the streambed, living green glows
in frigid photosynthesis, rebukes ice for not
getting it. Ice has grown too long.
Earth wheels round the sun.
Ice is almost done.
With growing light this plant
digs deeper into sand
so melt will not bare white roots
and tumble green downstream.
Sea palms risk death twice with every wave
that tries to rip their holdfasts from rock
already smoothed by centuries of surf,
rock so perilously placed that even beds
of mussels can’t resist the smash of tides.
Sea palms seem to be Poseidon’s test
and trial to evolve the perfect holdfast,
or perhaps they lost an elemental bet.
top of page
Go to Archives