Icicles turn oaks upside down.
Each dripping tip mirrors
what it sees in each drop
that grows the icicle’s taper.
As each drop swells toward sphere,
thin trunks stretch taller, taller, narrow
toward upside down ground
as the drop narrows at the cincture
that will let it spill, trees curved in
at top and bottom while it falls, much as we
curve, bottoms up, into our own transience.
Once again, water is astonishing as it cycles through its phases and tosses curves toward human irises.
Horses play in falling snow,
roll in it, prance and trot,
and chase each other round a tree
while snow soaks air like
a hundred seeding cottonwoods.
Horses are in snow huge kids
who dare each other, push
and shove until the other rears
and whinnies loud. We share.
We like old earth made fresh,
new and soft for mammal roll
and chase. We dramatize.
We both go foal.
But we never cherished
snowfall on the steppes, nor
backed rumps into a prairie blizzard,
nor stood in windless snow
until our barrels wore white robes—
ancient longings grown into
the grassland runner’s brain
a thousand thousand years
before a notion of a fence lit up
a little two-leg hunter’s mind.
That rope the women make…
I would not mind
growing as I melt.
Must I learn to
corrugate my length
with each shift of cold air?
All the more smooth rolls to gleam.
But suppose I learn
to let go of
what is too much,
learn to bleed
a path toward clear.
Below me, ice will
mound up toward my tip
in our brief and sunbright cave.
The hands of wind shape snow
as ocean sculpts wander-ice
below the waterline.
Hollows, curves, shadows, bright--
a cantilevered edge wishes outward,
grains of broken snowflakes flow
past in breeze, a few with intact barbs
catch on the suspense and grow it.
Once again, water tests limits in the play
of light and cold and wind,
and once again, discovers none.
Snow can replicate in hours what wind and water sculpt in stone across centuries. Both are gifts of beauty in the course of flow. Time is irrelevant; for these powers, time does not exist. Nor do we.
A young eagle sits a branch
above a deep nest filled with snow.
She is last summer’s egg, all promise,
but she did not leave the nest.
Last week, before the storm,
I watched her carry sticks toward
her nest home—she has the instincts right.
In a month, her parents will return,
and chase her off for good.
“For good” is an interesting phrase. Raptors have their own rules, they know what works and do not change. Juveniles must disperse.
Crow’s feathers inhale light
although snow is bouncing photons
to both our eyes.
Crow has scratched a hole
where its nose said ‘food,’
and found a jay
frozen where it fell.
Crow swallows light and
swallows frosty breast
of sunflower-fed jay,
in the end the same.
Winter weeds birds and strengthens populations. Crows provide a service as they scavenge beyond the leavings of our cars. Once food in snow is opened, many other lives will eat some protein, including chickadees. Nature is sustainable; nothing goes to waste. Blue feathers will be woven into swallow nests next month.
The topography where stream meets snow
is a song of soft and pillows
rounded into threshholds
of flowing wind and water both, all
is open, nothing closed,
in snow’s caress of its own flow.
Peninsulas smack lips when made of wind and water, liquid phase and crystal both.
As snow falls on fur and feathers
a cardinal girl cocks a warning eye
at the squirrel who dares
to enter her cache of sunflower seeds.
Squirrel relies on charm
and the mammal view
Snowflakes in its fur.
May not work on a cardinal,
but it works on me.
Sometimes, amidst falling snow
that thickens air, whites it out if wind swirls,
air all becomes, for a moment, clear.
Meaning hovers at the edges,
but will not land. I shake off clarity
and feast eyes on suddenly clarified
woodpecker, nuthatch and cardinal girl.
They are utterly clear.
Snow finds a dancer in an oak,
and gives her elegance, lifts
her from the pile and builds
the tensile arch the perfect depth
to meet the angle of
the dryad’s reaching arm.
North of Greece, I think, this
is how dryads found their telling.
Old forests in northern lands grew stories from the seasons
the way acorns discovered they were really trees.
Last Fall, a growing tip of sumac dreamed toward sky.
Something went wrong. It leaned, lost balance, tried,
but shaped a circle when it lost its aim. It felt sad.
But a circle is excellent to shape,
for when a down feather floated earthward from a swan,
it saw the sumac’s circle, wafted through
and caught its barbs on sumac fur.
And now the circle sumac tip recalled its dream.
It after all had touched sky,
or sky had floated down to touch the sumac tip.
We all have our stories. Sometimes we overhear each other, and it’s good.
A foot of snow above cattail leaves
has sun-shrunk into ice, and in shrinking
lifted off leaves, so this ice
has begun to rise again, as water will.
They say that water always finds the low, but
this shrink-ice is the slow part we can see
of where it really always goes: it lifts up
into sky in a process called sublime.
This pretty ice
cantilevered over cattails
will simply slowly vanish into air
less thin than rumor knows,
and will be seen as cloud
one soon day to the east of here.
Moss stays green below ice,
green in spite of winter’s night,
so green its chloroplasts refuse death
as they did when this moss
redeemed bare earth under cliffs
of glaciers slowly melting north.
Would it laugh now, could it?
Well it should, for it plays the old game
with ice and wins again,
stays vital, stays green
and harbors again the floating seeds
of the young ones who need flowers,
who can’t stay green in the grip of ice.
It’s odd to have a fallen leaf
carry your eye to your hand.
Ridged veins trace sap flow,
or where it did. There
the hollows between tendons,
age’s revelation of the cords
that pull the fingers open, closed,
and the ebb of flesh between.
The anatomy of leaf, changing
as it dries toward mummy wrap
or dust—it’s odd.
How many mirrors Earth holds up to our most mortal eyes. But what they show has beauty—hold onto that.
I find a cache of basswood seeds
a chipmunk ate, or mouse, or vole,
someone with those recurved chisel teeth.
I picture hairy little paws holding
up to nibbling teeth a ball the size a soccer ball
would be to me. Long incisors slice through
outer crust, then through insulation thick
as beaverboard until the prize is freed.
Some balls hold a protein treat,
larva of a moth. Little eyes lit up.
Seedeaters do enjoy a grub,
be they rodent, be they bird.
Basswood seeds release from trees
all winter long, a kind of rodent dole
rescued from the snows,
cached in volume in the dens,
around tree roots but often held
away from soil so the granary won’t
recall it’s made of seeds and germinate.
Birdnest on the ground
revealed by melting snow,
was a larder for the winter.
Birth nest became Pantry nest
filled with basswood seedhusks
emptied of nourishment, except
mine, now, for seeing one more circle
inside another in infinite regression.
Robin makes a nest of grass and mud,
sculpts the mud to her breast curve
by turning around in the nest while mud is wet.
Fifty beaks of mud; fifty spins to shape.
Her architecture mirror of her flesh.
She laid blue oblong eggs and filled the open
circles of her brood’s beaks, and all flew
the nest. A squirrel one night slept too
heavily and left the nest to fly to ground.
A deer mouse walked a circle round the nest,
inside, and thought, “Good place for a cache,”
filled it up with round basswood seeds
and made the nest a coldtime Pantry Nest.
How we lives circle round
each other’s leavings,
recycle toward our needs,
help each other all unwitting
without intention one.
Being does become.
From time to time great artists hatch
beneath the bark of dying trees,
sometimes whole larval families
express whatever odd genes
lead to genius, yet unsung
they pass again to darkness.
They are artists of ephemera
whose work is rarely seen
before the bark collapses
from its parent tree. Some
of tongues lost in time.
Look at this brave work on weathered wood.
From birth, they labored in the dark,
these pale grubs, bite by bite, to create
this intaglio of mandibles and from it grow.
Notice the radiation of the ribs, the touch
of Haida flattening of skull,
the hint of nether gesture,
that saucy mouth.
These artists, unlike most,
were rewarded in this life.
After eating out their masterpiece,
they cosied into sleep
and woke with Wings!
Half angel, half beast, artists
aspire to flight, and some do.
Before the leafing, I look up
at shapes against the sky,
green still imagination,
buds become tangible.
Alder shapes travel me to a March
way back, where I lean
against a tree just off swamp ice
and watch snowshoe hares
dance snow down as they leap.
The sky is blue and up, still
a bit of light, and alder holds
to blue its female cones,
seed scoured by siskins,
male catkins hanging polished
in their diamond age.
I see the snowshoes dance,
leap above the other who rolls rolled
but as quick up and leaping back,
big eyes wide,
no jot of interest in the sky
or alder silhouettes, even as
we all bud into spring.
How compelled we all are, and how different.
Now through soil all about,
pale shoots press up toward light
they may not sense, but know
blind thrusts against winter’s grave
are the path toward life.
Success against gravity spends roots,
burns the pantry bare, so pale leaves ready
for emergence begin unfolding
even as they touch the roof of brown leaves
dropped last fall. As shoots break soil
and light discovers them, color finds them too,
reds and yellows, life-blessing greens.
Most sprouts quest dark alone, but one
I see today rises with a twin,
two in one unfolding mirror.
As they emerge they grow apart,
separate but from one root.
As winter hearts decay,
slough to dust and sink,
lives out and about all find color
in the light, see each other find it,
and know once more we share one root.
In the woodland, a basswood seed leaf
rests lucent with sunlight.
Seed must leave the parent’s shadow,
needs to sail just so far.
Now, seeds left on soil,
their leafsail thins, reveals
veins more like wind than watershed.
These veins cavort and curve, recurve
inside the leaf, draw meanders
like flatland streams, as if idling breezes
shaped these arteries, as if the purpose
of the leaf predicts its flight,
as if the sap within the leaf grew
a preview of the eddied breeze
it was born to sail upon.
Dawn’s burning off the snowmelt fog.
As apple trees reveal
their unleafed reaching, color
enters air, a tinge, a tint
of gold at the edges of perception
that soothes the loss of mystery
and hints of cloudless sky.
When I lift loose bark
from fallen wood
a tiny shell shines
in its first light since its snail
crawled under to die.
We hold dear our animal
impulse to hide,
mammal or gastropod.
It’s as old as wanting light,
this seek of dark. Mostly
we return to sun if
our time is not done.
But not this spiral snail,
it climbed a few turns, felt its time
upon it, sought the dark, died
and dried into a film inside
this shell that greets the light.
We all climb the spiral, but few of us create it as we climb.
Willow flowering begins again
as it did backalong when
clustered willow stems sat vased
in my folks’ living room to mark true Spring,
when I would privately draw
a stem of soft across my cheek.
It always soothed.
I don’t cut pussywillows,
let lives find their own flowering. Soon,
willow will frost light with gold.
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Copyright © Morning Earth 2007