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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
March 2003



The woods are alive with the escapades
of winter-cured new-fallen leaves, surprised
to cartwheel over frozen ponds, leaves that
bellied and dry catch wind and fly
as they did last night when wind
from stubborn red oaks plucked them free.
Now they scurry over snow as antic animals of dream:
stiff pointy legs below humped backs,
vague head, no eyes, no mouth, a stiff and skinny tail.


Earth is a great trickster. The antic spirit surrounds us. We echo it in our tales of magic and our myths of Raven and Coyote, Loki and Anazi. Be willing to be tricked, for therein is the transforming gift of laughter.



I watch a ramshorn snail
glide up glass on a fat red foot,
radula scraping for algae.
Atop the shell, tendrils of green
wave in the water,
green riders that under my glass
become hydra, whose blind tentacles
wave all about for food.
Inside the hydras' clear flesh live hordes
of green Chlorella algae
that under a strong lens
reveal separate lives that live on light
within safe flesh, that nourish hydra
when food will not drift by.

The snail receives naught.
Hydra receive mobility.
Chlorella receive light.
Hydra receive sugars from algae.
And that's the tale of the ramshorn snail.

Moral: For a free lunch find a green symbiote.
But first, become clear.Lives interlive. The root pattern of life is cooperative. We live on and within each other. Each of us is the result of symbiosis.



The chickadee crashes glass and drops,
I dash to bring it in, but
a black masked bird covers it first,
and flies the chickadee away.


Complicity in death is never comfortable. But the shrike is hungry and alert, and there is no fault in that. The shrike is beautiful and rare, down from tundra for the winter.



Five hen pheasants fill the feeders--
no room for scolding crows,
no time for crows. It's fifteen minus cold.
Above, a single hen sits calmly
on a branch, next to her four rampant crows.
She shifts neither feather nor foot
while the crows, all
sudden big black wings,
try to bluff her off, scold her into flight, so
she hunkers down, unmoved.

Is the twinkle in her eye or mine? I love to see the biter bit, the bully confounded, the trickster tricked. I do suspect the pheasant was having a good time. It's a girl thing.


Snoods and apron-beards aflap,
turkey toms hotfoot it
across the frozen pond
I can almost hear the sizzle.
As they rush toward corn and spring
wattles and caruncles swell with blood
as they test each other's mettle,
each aware of the other's maleness
swelling in his throat,
spreading through the fan.
Soon the challenge strut--
but first the corn!


It is 15 below zero, so corn comes first. The dominant older toms don't run with the boys. They are always on their dignity. No rush for now, but March light sparks deep inside those bald blue heads and soon, soon, they'll show the kids how a proper strut and circle threat is done.

FYI: Snoods are the fleshy growth on the upper beak.
Caruncles, more odd signal flesh. Wattles you know, or will. They all burn red with blood for the other males. It's a guy thing. The beard is an apron of coarse feathers that hangs from the breast. Hens rarely have them. It's a guy thing.



The neighbor's orange tabby
walks through desultory horses
with purpose, intent on some goal.

She dainty steps around
clods of manure
and winter hooves

to the young ironwood
and climbs its shag bark,
up to the first branch
where she stands, balanced,

waits for Blaze or Paint
to wander her way, perhaps
rub on the tree, each broad back

a surprise landing net
for a pretty acrobat
in an ironwood tree.


I should not interpret the cat's motives or presume her fantasies, but sometimes it's just too tempting.



A red squirrel
just found out
how far
a turkey's beak
can reach,
and how
very high
a young red squirrel
can leap.


The gift of laughter would be Earth's best morning gift, were it not for beauty, were it not for hard lessons, were it not for awe.



Wild turkeys all at once amble hugely
through my yard, feathers brilliant burn
the sunlight bronze and gold
and iridescent green and colors never named.

This is that lustered light you saw one afternoon
cast into a west-windowed room through old stained glass with clear plate prisms cut around the edge,
the light you didn't know
you've hungered for: a cello chord made visible.


The mind leaps through time, and sometimes I seem to be just a passenger. What a rich tapestry is a lived life.



A pond upon the pond,
snowmelt on the land,
ice lattices collapse
downward in the soil.
Toads stir in thawing pockets,
look up, begin to drive
clawed feet against soil,
push blunt noses toward
magnetic light.
Balls of torpid snakes
sense the turn of time
begin to twist in dark.
Beneath the pond upon the pond
ice discovers pores.
Beneath the ice eyes look up.


All the snow has suddenly changed phase, and is busy seeking level and percolating down through soil to bless waiting roots. Soon some of it will rise again, sap in green tubes, sap in shagbark tubes.



In fresh snow and warm
the way deermouse tracks display
toe pads, and between paired feet,
the dainty groove of tail.

In fresh snow and warm
the way a pheasant lifts
to lightly brush on snow
the downstroke tips
of beating wings.

In soon-honeyed nights
the way antennae of the luna
will lift neck hairs
with their airy feathering.

In soon-honeyed nights
the way eardrums will stir
to the no-wind of batwings.


We poise on the cusp of seasons, equinox upon us. The delicacies of contrast move me. Always the turning of the wheel.



Pairs of wild geese
thrust through thick fog
bugling loud of love,
complaining of slow ice.

They circle every pond,
swoop low where last their nest,
continue loud the bugles
hoarse in chambered necks

as if some voiced vibration
could pock ice dark and watery
for the paddle-footed wild geese.


Whitman said they don't complain, these cousin-lives, but the sheer volume and repetition of these spring hollers when the ponds remain iced-in persuades me otherwise. "Anticipation without completion is lousy," both genders bugle loud. "Long days without wide water is unfair!"



Shrike hunts here today
in dapper plumage,
every feather neatly pressed,
her black and white are sharp
the hook of beaktip dark.
Hunger draws her here, but
when shrike flies in
every sparrow, every junco,
every chickadee
dives to earth and hides.
Shrike accepts her failure,
flies off unblooded, fierce,
and I watch, entirely graced with life.


The predators are fascinating. Even more, the responses of potential prey, learned the hard way for a million years and more. Shrike will soon fly north to her tundra breeding ground, so she hungers for energy to make the flight and grow eggs.


Raindrops jewel a twig,
Diadem a day of gray.
Close, a single mirror gem
curves the land, contains
serried tree trunks thin
at top and base, thick
at the equator.
A finger on one drop
coalesces all into one
that rushes onto skin
and bejewels my drinking tongue.


It's not simply what is present and changing, it's how you choose to participate. Go with the flow.



Spring day, first light,
A large cat stretches out
next to me in bed, purring.
His plush purr throbs
morning in my bones.


I am honored by the willingness of cat, never habit, always new. Praise the waking synesthesia of purr.



Before leaves, flower buds
break free of scaled sheaths.
Maple buds deepen red,
oaks begin their pebbly string.
Before their length descends,
aspen catkins pretend pussy willow
buds that beg for fingertips.
On the trees, only antique lichens
splay green on bark, while below,
spore-caps of mosses nod
upward toward fruition.


What a season. It would be amazing once a lifetime, but to be blessed every year! Leave the TV, go outside and join the opening.



Just arrived brown birds dive for roadside cover.
Jay calls ride the sough of wind through pines.
Early redwing males ride standing cattails
with their foot-above-foot grip, start to stake out
defended territories, start to flash orange epaulets
on breeding grounds,

   when of a sudden rain turns snow.  

Through driving white, the birds banish orange,
recreate the winter blackbird flock which swirls
through snow, begins to course for food.


Redwings live through winter in enormous flocks. But spring's advent demands separation and competition for nest sites. Rejoining, even recreating, society is an intelligent survival response to danger. How packed we animals are with ancient wisdom. When disaster strikes, flock up.



Season of mud is upon us,
grounds us, tracks us down.
The hunters of night imprint paws
day shadowed, cast in relief.
Mama raccoon alone in night
follows her tracks to bird feeders,
beetles, mice--anything to flow
her milk for the mischiefs in the den.
Soon little kit feet will charm
the season of mud, track down
my ready heart.


Reading tracks backward in time is a pleasure made for spring rains, spring muds. If you're ever going to greet births and rebirths with feeling, now is the time. A poem of celebration is a poem against cruelty.

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