The Magpie of Oz is as black and white
as its kind around the Earth, but not
long-tailed, and bill largely white, black
wicking up as if the point had dipped in ink.
Its Australian eye is red but not sinister.
Within the Mother Earth,
all her children coil
waiting to be born.
Here the furled leaf
unrolls to light,
the tube’s green mouth
a trumpet heralding dawn.
So curled once I,
and so curled you.
A dark mystery.
Behind a curtain made of drops
of phosphorescent glue
lurks the larva of the little gnat
that made the glowing curtain.
It waits for the end of day
when food may probe its lighted bait
and be eaten, stuck dangling there.
Glowworms line many caves
of Australia and New Zealand,
but the larva above lives alone
on red earth banks along
rainforest walks.This catches me:
the main horde playing Milky Way
in black caves, a smaller group,
colonists of true night, true day.
Note: These are Arachnocampa fungus gnats.
Could these divergent lifestyles
begin a path to two species?
A satin bowerbird cocks her indigo eye
before she flies from the fruiting palm.
Soon, well fed, egg ready,
she will explore bowers made by males,
assess the adorment of baubles blue
each collects to match a lady’s eye,
appraise the males’ fitness and their dance,
and after visits one, two, three, decide.
All this color!
Staggered by crimson,
and the blues,
ivory of beak
that bird-dark eye, that sense
of being realized
by primal Other.
The wild is seen and sees.
Note: This Australian parrot is named Crimson Rosella.
The little skink keeps cocked a wary eye
head always turned up just enough
toward the being looming in its sky
to know when flight is wise
or even to survive required.
I give her that, robust lizard of satin scales,
I am one of the scariest beings she will meet,
maybe not as fierce as the bird whose beak she met
when she dropped her wiggly tail, since grown back
but in facsimilie, without wiggly bait possibility.
Crude new tail can’t flex, can’t shed in mimicry.
Her scales beneath sun are elegant
as any of the Mother’s craft,
Sleek and smooth, this scaled skin
is slippery in the fist, urgent to leave.
She knows to vanish is a blink away, so
her fine-toed feet, her zippered scales
that almost catch the rainbow stay put
to suggest that I am worth daring.
A little caterpillar protects its metamorphosis
by cocooning inside a net it creates
by pulling out its bristly long setae (hairs)
and gluing them into a strong safety cage.
Imagine entering the change to maturity
(Imagine completing puberty)
by jerking out your hairs one by one,
and gluing them into neat cells that
spiral into a shielding whole.
Don’t worry about the scalp of blood,
for tomorrow you will entirely dissolve
and like an angel armored against the fire,
develop a whole new self, this round
with the urge to mate, and wings.
It’s not that things are open,
it’s that out of sight, things are opening.
We sense this through cold crystals.
Maple flowers swell on twigs.
It all unfolds again, croziers of fern
are ready to unroll from dark soil into light,
their rolled fronds again augur unborn
animals folded in a possum pouch of green,
In Australia, a Crimson Rosella chuckles ivory
from the popcorn flowers of a tree.
flower buds will soon unwrap their stars
petal by petal around the wheel
to pinwheel into hearts again,
each time new, impossibly,
we accept again this mood
of opening that’s pulled us along
like kids in a toy wagon
since we were new.
Mangroves shelter the long-legged,
long are their toes, broad their feet,
they wade but do not sink.
Today White Ibis stand on high branches,
a Yellow-crowned Night Heron before them aloof.
Tilted sunwise, mangrove leaves bright green.
Below them in the channels, other waders hunt
breakfast, beak-plunge after plunge before
silver gleams in the beak.
Note: Mangroves are the font of life in oceans world around. They are nurseries for many saltwater lives. Seashore development has obliterated many mangroves already; the rest will vanish soon.
A joey peeks out of mother’s pouch
as a group of pretty-faced wallabies
forage in a eucalyptus savanna.
I admire the white stripe below the eye
and the white-tipped ears, pretty indeed.
Two feet stick out above the joey’s head.
Feet routinely protrude from full pouches,
startling to this newcomer’s eyes.
A gymnast might envy such flexibility.
My old bones quail at the thought
while my nerves pulse with pouched amaze.
On the crowns of lacy trees
a pair of currawongs
ink a picture of together
into the twilight glow.
Perched postures twinned,
beaks and eyes aligned:
an old Chinese scroll
unrolls before me.
Note: Photo made on Tamborine Mountain, Queensland, Australia
Around all Earth,
the baby’s plight,
the mother’s plight,
The noisy miner chick
plays every key.
the silent cry,
wilt ever end?
Hundreds of hanging white bells
grow out of the mossed trunk.
They glow in rainforest light,
dappled at best, now overcast.
If little fungal bells could ring
what music would the forest hear?
A slight, white, diffident chime
at the cocked ear’s edge?
Squinting, I see a Casper conclave,
a flowering of child ghosts, all
wanting to be friends but bashful.
Note: These fungi thrive in Lamington Nat’l. Park, Queensland, Australia.
Just at dawn, honeyeaters drink nectar
from new flowers of kangaroo paws.
The flower buds are shaped like the toes
of cartoon animals in 1930s animation
and as fuzzy to fingertips as imagined
paws of kangaroo, without the claws.
In today’s cartoon a kangaroo joey
stares appalled as the tips of his forepaws
split open into five petaled stars
brightly dabbed with pollen gold.
When small birds come to drink nectar
from his flowering paws he giggles
and can’t stop until he jumps
into the pond to wet the tickles.
Night in the rainforest,
a fire-hollowed standing pine.
Wet resins. The spotlight picks out
the astonishing long legs of a cricket
or katydid making its way through pitch dark
with antennae at least as long.
Three small eyes reflect the flash,
no large eyes like its daylight cousins.
It does sense what it needs:
Antennae for touch and smell,
Ears by their front knees combine
with Leg/Wing chirps to build
a sense of local space,
For taste, palps by the mouth, in and out.
These simple eyes are by spotlight
overwhelmed. Blinded, it is still,
If the creature freezes it may live--
the ancient always strategy of prey.
But hunters use it too, and wait.
The gold that leads each seined wing
of this Emperor dragonfly first seduces me,
then the bold gold calligraphy
on face and thorax and abdomen.
The closer he lets me come
the more deeply I bow.
Note: This photo was taken at Windgrove, Tasmania.
The Yellow Emperor (Hemianax papuensis) is Australia’s largest dragonfly
INVITE TO WRITE #33
This amazing photo by Adriana Franco shows the final extent of a river flooding in the white sands of Baja California, Mexico. Water is tricky stuff. The “tree” is not a tree. It is mud left by floodwaters. Note the swirls of sediment in the “trunk.” How is it that this pattern in white sand so closely mirrors the pattern of tree branches seeking light? How is it that this pattern so closely mirrors tree roots questing soil? Watersheds? What makes this beautiful? Contemplate this image and see where it takes your writing.
Entries are due Wednesday, March 7 and will be published March 9.
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Rain-swollen current spreads algae over stones,
green hair upon a pillow.
Fat tadpoles hover in the green, eating,
Over one smooth stone, one tad hangs in the flow,
hind legs just pooched out.
In tomorrow or twice all these froglets
will be kicking skinny legs, kicking
against the flow from thread to thread,
learning that to grow
you push against the current, just enough.
The dots and stripes of aboriginal art
draw breath as this lined skink
emerges from her hollow den.
She has bathed the human eye
with her motifs for fifty thousand years,
and in the Dream her sinuous stripes
will always curl, and her dots
dance stories through your mind.
Note: Photo made at Windgrove, Tasmania, the hearth where spirits are fed.
A little pademelon doe spooks
when I raise the camera.
Her pouch is full and low.
Her ears are wide and eyes,
her paws dangling loose.
Without panic, used to this,
she hops ungainly into woods.
Note: Pademelons are the smallest kangaroos.
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