It is the time when frost
whiskers dead leaves then vanishes to air,
time for concerted melt and freeze,
when ice grows music for the eye,
when night cold scores adagios of ice
that stretch the eye through dawn,
that glide and stroke Earth’s floor
as if fingers caressed strings.
It may be the lidded eye that charms,
or the oversize hatchling head,
or is it that precise and sidelong tilt?
I know that sleepy eye
has fired a danger image to a brain
ancient even from the egg, that knows
when to still breath until
the large thing leaves the field of eye.
Older memories than this moment
guide this child.
Little lizard, scamper off,
paddle your long toes
through tangled stems and leaves,
in wise fear of this primate,
but know too, that the very young
urge us toward tenderness,
until we commit to other ways.
A seabird left by tide on sand:
Long lovely reptile feet—
how they pull me into time.
Scales like snakeskin, smooth,
cool, colored subtly blue as shallow coves,
the hue shifts from scale to scale
like transient blushes of a mermaid’s skin below.
Winter lichen grows
a loose shield on an oak ,
color—color!--welcome to an eye
worn by dark bark against white snow.
True, these lichen greens and blues are soft
and never summer bold,
but centering the shield
deep russet spores wait, subtle in their cups.
Young and full of sass are yearling deer,
and still with Mom.
After last night’s snowfall, two does and two
yearlings plod the white meadow of pond.
Five below, cold,
A yearling whelmed with frisk
cuts a quick dash north, whirls south
to run and curve again west
into the shadowed trees
to join Mother and the rest.
Leaves of ice plant—
aimed at the sun they rehearse.
Next to the surge
and crash of surf on rocks,
splashed with sea foam,
flames of ice plant paint winter
as if a driftwood fire released
its colors into full starry night.
Ice plant is an exotic invasive, native of South Africa, where it is known as sour fig or Hottentot fig. Both flowers and foliage drop jaws.
A tiny jumping spider seems metallic,
as if dipped and fired with a glaze of zinc.
Blues and greens and copper reds adorn
even its legs when they catch sunlight.
I wonder why it has become so noticeable.
Is it warning off birds? I think not.
Or could it only jump half-blind prey?
A lichen grows on and in
a shelf made from a tree,
sends up a rich bouquet of tubes
for growing spores.
The algal partner opens
to the sun and greens the whole shebang
with sugars sweet to both, so excellent
the lichen reaches for the wind with
an array of tubes for growing spores,
the lichen way of saying Yea.
The fungal partner sends
down feeding threads into the wood
which may be startled to be used as soil,
and so say all of us alive in our surprise,
What? Me? Compost? Nay.
Life’s earthy way of saying Yea.
May the circle be unbroken.
Light glows now through snow
where it thins near young branches dark
that catch the infrared to free themselves.
So should we all seek sun
in this burgeoning of change
and catch it on our lifted faces
as we’ve done forever
while the northern Earth’s reborn.
Clump birch burned two years back.
Center broke off and hollowed down,
only a hard shell stands.
Nature is at times not kind
when she offers images,
when she offers mirrors.
What is this hollowing?
Why does it reach in?
My self, brain-scooped in age?
Or our culture of the mindless
whose fruits I do enjoy.
Learning is worth celebrating--a joy delayed.
The trail of a deer melts into a pond
that has found again the power of blue sky.
The doe’s black hooves sank deep in snow
as she walked across winter, her prints now
pocked across the mirror pond
of snowmelt above true ice beneath,
meltpond upon a deep pond that finds sunlight
gradually suffusing all the dark below.
For this turn of Earth, as turtles swim,
the doe will circle round the pond.
Furry buds announce Spring
and we are again glad.
Pure white fur thrusts back
shiny bud scales that warded
buds from Winter excess.
Pussy willows, aspen catkins,
alder catkins: furred and young,
small slow mammals of imagination.
Draw a fur bud across your cheek,
Aaah, and then, a budding leaf.
Not the same. It is plant-made
mammal fur we love,
we yearn so for such connection.
The last snow becomes winter’s coda.
It falls as confection,
each branch, each twig,
each swelling flower bud:
This final snow is sloppy wet
but pure joy to eyes,
and grace to mind, for
it melts as quickly as it should.
Ancient Celts practiced water magic,
venerated wells and springs where
the goddess blood is shared.
Water is Proteus, the old shape-shifter,
one moment vapor, the next ice,
raindrops on a tongue, then, lo,
hot blood pulsing up a vein.
The Old Ones knew what they were doing.
Hydromancy—water magic: real.
Snowflakes are one phase,
crystal lattices that after reaching earth
melt, refreeze in shifting cold
in all new crystal forms, some
repeated as a crystal chain as if
Proteus cloned himself repeatedly, as if
water wants to keep its crystal brilliance
in the very light that requires
that it be liquid now and flow.
Perhaps the most clear example of water magic is your brain. It is about 80 percent water; Einstein’s, Mozart’s, and your own.
The skeleton spray that grew white berries
of red osier has caught a crop of glinting
wind-borne seeds that wait for a way down.
The bone tree that grew white flowers
withers in spring sun and will this summer drop.
Two buds sprout below. Each
holds its infant umbel with its host
of nascent flowers, each soon to pool
nectar in its base to entice the buzz
of pollen-swapping wasps and flies and bees
so each white flower will swell into a fruit
ripened white just when birds flock through
to carry seeds across the land they overfly.
Red osier dogwood seduces first insects, then birds, to further its reproduction. And we assume animals are in charge of a passive environment.
As this last snow wanders down to water
under gray skies, it parades a panoply of forms in ice
that hang ephemeral in air, sensitive.
This water that yesterday was cloud
has been everywhere before, time and again,
has known the forms of every being.
Today it dreams in ice, and renders tiny figures
it recalls, each a quick sketch under infra red,
collapsing to another gasp of shape. None
lasts, all will pool today--the bearded Norse god
arm upraised, his spindly dog, profiles
of demons or dead kings--you see them, yes?
Form is but illusion, spiraling through time.
Flow and interruption look the same
from 20,000 feet or three, the same
fractal carvings left behind as flood recedes.
How a barrier helps water carve a basin
seen from sky above Wyoming or
at my feet on this ocean beach.
How the beachstone slows the flow
so water drops the lightest grains of sand
in downstream arrows,
How the land takes on striations
from the flood direction
and the speed of its recession,
whether tide, or glacial lake that burst
its bounds twelve thousand years ago,
seen from 20,000 feet or three.
Microcosm mirrors macrocosm once again.
At high tide, waves crash on rocks.
A feisty raven lands filled with intent,
wings back, tail a spread brake.
Her target leaps to the safety of sky.
They know each other well, this family,
when to get out of the way.
Irritation is abrupt, a blood surge.
Raven beachcombers scavenge after
moon tugs tide up onto sand
to leave behind surf’s battered dead.
We all beachcomb our blood tides,
scavenge memories to feed,
some moon lost. In blood
we know as raven knows.
Power and pole turn
in slow spin
when acorn woodpeckers
carve a new larder
to see the clan through winter.
Under strong sunfire, the pine
pole splits radial crevices
that narrow to the sapling center.
These dark splits spiral up
as if the tree had bathed in sun
and turned to even the fire.
While it lived, this conifer knew
no hammer of beak,
but did know the points of claws
as chickarees spiral to cones
for seeds hiding shy under scales.
Now the pole is made strumpet of acorns,
even less modest than fall oaks that
splash acorns through leaves
to thump onto soil, to be
carried away by squirrel and jay
and buried for winter stores, or to be
flown off by birds to a larder
to be tamped down a hole.
Some acorns in soil will not be recalled,
Some tamped in this pole
will pop out as wood swells with rains,
and some few will green and grow oaks
slowly twirling in light,
though most will feed the gardeners.
Tree sparrows now cast their eyes north
toward the breeding and birth place
where treeline meets tundra. Long sun
is stirring within them. Soon
hard overnight flights, soon
the coursing of tundra
for feathers of ptarmigan
to line the nest so eggs may be laid.
How beautifully intertwined are lives.
Our US north country is the southern winter destination for millions of American tree sparrows. We know them by a little black spot that centers their breasts.
When it’s time to melt the snow,
everything does its part.
All objects dark enlist Sol’s infra-red
to heat them more than snow cold.
We in the North are not proud,
when rabbit and deer drops drill
deep with high sun’s heat
we clap for their new flair.
Cropped by frost, grass stems
soak up sun enough to melt
round holes around their thin lines,
grasses, scat, every
little thing doing its part.
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