In a forest clearing, a yellow robin
pokes about for bugs between roots.
One curled leaf flipped contains
the very color of his sunlit breast.
Is this more than accident?
Does his breast blend in
these woods for camouflage?
Note: Photo made in Lamington National Park, Queensland, Australia.
Raucous cries blot out all other twilight sound.
Three are just above me
flipping bright crests up and down socially.
Minutes ago the flock of sulfur cockatoos
dug for grubs in the football field,
heads half buried in fervent quest,
only sulfur crests visible.
Now they’ve flocked into the jacaranda tree,
gathered for the roost tonight.
I envy them one thing, these beauties.
When they dig in soil for grubs
then lift their heads, they come up
snow white, unsoiled.
Note: Now I find that sulfur cockatoos secrete a white powder from their skin, instead of an oil like most birds. Reminds me of powdering white bucs a thousand years ago.
Pigeons often seem to call up
human personalities, especially
when their feathers are ruffled.
This Crested Pigeon here seems
to combine a stiff gelled spike
with an aging matron’s indignation,
a matron of uncertain gender
but habitual frustration.
Naught to do with the real
bird of Australia.
A classic pigeon, with the subtle
hues of tiled feathers
that flare when they catch sun.
The male’s crest flows open
and spreads in the mating.
Their wings sing
when they take flight.
We walk wet trail at night,
wondering what’s afoot,
armed with torch and camera.
There! A Great-Barred frog!
Seems unaware of the light,
of our clumsy approach.
She is fawn above and green below
with huge black eyes, colors
of dropped gum tree leaves.
She sits with the confidence
of quality tattoos, ready to leap
but seeing no need
with her black and high-set eyes.
Our torch has blotted
her night-sensitive sight.
Neither camera flash nor
thump of passing feet
moves her. She just sits
camouflaged as leaves,
a sphinx with trembling throat.
Note: Photo taken in rainforest, Queensland, Australia
The light under tree ferns is old light, the radial light those
giant dragonflies knew as they clattered wings on green fronds.
It may call up old connections if you sense yourself in an ancient incarnation. I don’t, but sort of do. It’s the mid 1940s,
and every atom that was me then, a small pool, has been replaced ten times as I breathed and shed and ate and aged.
Back then, near the cabin were pure stands of bracken fern,
the kind where fronds branch out from a central stalk,
and I would crawl under and know a fine light through ferns,
but it was gold and green both, and I was a kind of Gulliver, hiding my huge body under ferns, against other eyes.
Today the tree ferns tower above me, green, I am displaced
in time more than space, a small Gulliver in Brobdingnag long
before, expecting giant dragonflies. Wait.
Something plopped in that dark pool.
Note: Photo taken in North New Zealand bush near Bay of Islands.
INVITE to WRITE #34 and Responses to INVITE #33
This intriguing photo off the web is unattributed, I’m sorry to say. It had an impact on me, and I hope it does on you. My mnd immediately insisted on seeing the photo as metaphor, comparing it to many aspects of the human condition. Me, I wince to see it. I suspect the strongest writing from this will originate in the strongly personal connections you find. Do remember that art leads us to the general through sensory images of the immediate and personal. So, contemplate the photo and let it take you somewhere inside.
Entries are due Wednesday, March 21. No attachments please,
Email to email@example.com
Your responses to INVITE #33 were powerful and wide-ranging. The archetype of tree/water/mud generated lots of archetypal poems that are excellent.
like a tree.
~~Diego Vazquez, Jr., Minnesota
if you give
tree of me
~Diego Vazquez, Jr., Minnesota
My eye wants to see the tree
And finally I allow it to enjoy
baroque shapes and subtle shadows.
Now other scenes are freed to play,
thoughts and memories to tumble.
I choose to remember an afternoon,
when as a child I knelt on the bank
of the round pond in Valley meadow.
I watched the handsome newt
wend through pond weed,
into the shadow of a hawthorn bush.
The orange-bordered crest upon his back
Undulated hypnotically, as does the
mud in this photograph, in the place
where the trunk would be,
if it was a tree.
~~Mary S. McConnell, Wisconsin
To See A Tree
fresh flow fresco art
a river runs through
simplicity from complexity
like silent music
the very soul
dna of soil
a dress rehearsal
~~Bruce Peck, Minnesota
Tree of Life--Sands of Time
Reminiscent of its verdant sister
this tree of life, like a fossil memory,
stretches branches into a sandy sea.
Could the ancestors reside here,
muddy veins telling stories only
ghosts can read?
One day the sands will call to me
and my green leaves turn and
fall, the red of my sap muddy ochre.
Yet I am still beautiful. Can you see me,
upper right, third from the top? The little
brown branch with attitude?
~~Linda Leary, Colorado
Thoughts on a Remarkable Brown and White Pattern in the Sand
Brown and white
How "in style" with a little blue
My Mother's Springer Spanial
(Like a cocker, only bigger)
White, soft ears speckled brown
How she loved him
After she lost him
Always kept a mended dime-store
Effigy that I had given her as a child
On her dresser
This pattern seeks infinity
Fingers forever seeking to find purchase
Branching out patterns for the flow to follow
(An injured heart can grow its own by-pass
So they say, seeking to renew its strength)
And blood, I'd like to delete it
From beauty's pattern
But there it is
Staining the white sand from a violent act
Yes, best go back to saddle shoes,
Running up the University library steps
Studying always, with explosive energy
How many branches to pursue
Free-flowing seeking , reaching out with joy
To the world's infinite knowledge
None of us could learn it all
But perhaps shall
For there is a chance
That time , a pattern
Obscure at first glance
Goes on as well
~~Peggy Osborne, Montana
Mud fingers stretching
Into white arid desert,
Memory of water
That sought to quench
We reach to fill
What needs our love,
Our nurturing embrace.
Light filters down
Through furcated branches,
Warming the flanks of deer
Grazing on bark and lichen.
Hands in church
On a chilly Sunday morning
Raise and beam their blessings
On a new child dressed in white
And sprinkled with the clear water
~~Ellen Collins, Virginia
The Fibonacci tree of life
Artistic branches sketching across the horizon
One to One making two, Then two and one making three
Fractalizing into a shape that forms all of nature
All of Life’s woven cell patterns
From the chambered nautilus to my heart-beating circulatory system
Someone, named God’s fingerprint Phi
~~Kathleen Huntley, Montana
What Is Necessary
Follow the pattern of delta mud
dark in iterations of complex surface,
how it forms a silhouette of flood or tears
on an older face.
Consider that gravity sings
in a raindrop caught by the third, slightly faded
petal of the wild rose surviving roadside
then detours through xylem and phloem of fortunate
beings, and on, plunging finally to the edge
of this ocean, briny home to leviathans.
What was knowable
as a bead of rain has transformed
and there is fear the sea will drag us under
while surface and silhouette fit
into mind as a rubber
ball fits the hand: easily squeezed
into conceptions that disregard other dimensions
though we sense volume in time
displaced. The mathematician
and scientist within savour pure equation
- fractals to calculate the coastline in metric
or the surface area of quartz crystals
in a desert dune; reckon vastness
complexity as figures and words
eloquent, but limited by experience.
Then there is this:
- the trees lie down, meld with white sand
while artist and innocent and scientist become one
discerning what is necessary for amazement.
~~Jenny Wolpert, British Columbia, Canada
Look at this picture then tell me
What it is. What do you see?
Is this the pattern of warm chocolate milk
On an icy sidewalk, accidentally spilt?
Or is the image of winter trees
As seen by the eyes of the Japanese?
It's a figure of nature, this we know
for man doesn't make things crooked so.
His need for order makes him plod
so he can only copy the designs of God.
Is this scene real or is it dreams?
I only know that it is not what it seems.
~~M J McMillan, South Dakota
Nana Embroiders the Family Heirloom
It took me fifty years, but I wanted a rug
with a tree. Pure felted wool, the real thing.
Tree, trompe l'oeil, like those in Mexico.
A tree tough enough for leather boots. Invite
a troupe of relatives to dance at Christmas,
without even rolling it up. Slide and stomp, then
sew family names into the branches, alongside
ours. By the time I had sheared, spun, felted
and looped the design, three generations had
held their wedding feasts. Brown sheep all sold
for pearly pesos, mutton stew. Great white rug,
kept holding the floor, swept pristine, for festivals.
It still graces those inky boards, under the ornate
dining table, which took our sons and grandsons
molto birthdays to build and carve. The dogs take
siestas on it. Now I want leaves, pink blossoms,
prickly pear––but there isn't time. Three more
names to be added this year, if I live––if they do
~~Denise duMaurier, Washington State
Kids’ Poems from Tim Doyle’s Fifth Grade, Fargo, North Dakota, on the Red River of the North, which floods most years.
Flowing water leaves no
Trace of what it once was
Before the water raced. No one
knows what the people faced.
This is my happy song,
Won’t you sing along?
This is a muddy tree,
I wonder where it could be?
Muddy tree, muddy tree,
Oh how I wonder where it could be?
Muddy tree, muddy tree,
Won’t you come and sing with me?
This is a very white sky,
I wish that I could fly.
This is my happy thing,
How I wish that it could sing.
~~Clay Schultze and Mason Thielman
There once was a tree,
That was grown for you and me.
It came from a sour lime,
Picked at prime picking time.
So if you want a full belly,
Call on your telly,
And ask for Kelly.
For some fresh limes,
From Kelly’s Fresh Deli!
Big beautiful tree,
A tree tall and strong.
Many branches that reach so high
They tickle the clouds.
A big tree that can live out a storm.
A tree is a home for many,
And provides food for others.
A tree tall and strong,
Big and beautiful.
Floods, floods, come and go,
But what’s to be left is still unknown.
Carved into the wet sand,
Is a tree I see made of mud.
The flood season comes,
It comes and goes.
Carved in the mud,
Trees like those.
After the flood I walk on the sand.
To my surprise, there are rows and rows,
Of beautiful trees. Not ordinary trees
These trees have no leaves.
The details in the art,
Doesn’t happen every day.
Remember it forever,
Nature made it this way.
~~Hannah Devine and Lea Paxton
Mud shaped as trees that is ….
That is cool. I have never seen
Anything like this before!
Although in Fargo we’ve had
many floods. Water overflowing
the banks. Kind of nature’s art
Flowing itself through the city
Into the earth
Leaving its trace.
Now it’s over.
Oh no! There is another flood.
Sometimes people ask themselves,
“What will our future be like?”
“When will the next flood be?”
“Can I afford the extra bills?”
“How will we get food?”
After the water dies down,
Someone in a plane took this picture.
The mud transforms its shape into a tree.
It’s funny how nature can destroy and
Give us such beauty after it is done.
What a majestic beautiful tree.
Its beauty can heal the sick and injured.
It can bring peace and stop the battles.
It can bring happiness with tears of joy.
It can bring life which means there is a future ahead.
It can bring many other things.
So what are we waiting for?
Let the future begin!
This was a wallaby joey before the raptor came.
The bones lie in a close-cropped meadow near sea cliffs
What do I do with this picked clean spine?
Predators depend on feckless young.
Everyone loves babies. Easy pickings.
Fifty percent of all species die in year one,
and not just prey. Eagles, too, and hawks.
One of those taloned beauties took this joey.
We all turn within the turning circle.
Some of my last inhale is soon blood cells
Grass became Joey, now part eagle, chicken now me.
We may always be startled by carcasses.
But grasping the circle leaves room for caring.
The Australian Magpie isn’t.
Not a crow cousin,
Not a raven cousin corvid.
Down Under, every other
black and white bird
would be named “pied,”
“Pied Magpie“ belabors the point.
The tail is short but lovely spread.
The beak amazes, unsure how deep
he should have thrust into ashes,
a dark edge seeps up between mandibles
black on ivory on black,
moving up to his fiery eye.
In flight the wings are half white
as is the spread tail.
On long legs in uncut urban grass
he hunts grasshoppers and beetles,
a nestling now and then, a lizard.
Such meaty fare fires his fierce red eye.
A Pied Currawong perches in a treetop
on one leg, the other tucked away.
I love the sound of “Currawong.”
As a kid we sang “Waltzing Matilda”
and I fell in love with “Billabong.”
Now Down Under I sing “Currawong.”
Echoes of an aboriginal language.
This big beaked obsidian bird
has that inquiring stare of omnivores:
“Is that edible?” Carnivores are sure
of what’s worth drooling about --
they rarely ask questions of their food.
As we stare at each other
that golden eye may wonder
why I keep repeating “Currawong.”
It’s a worthy sound; try it in your throat.
An open throat at “-wong”, please.
Drop that jaw.”
From a favored eucalyptus a Forest Raven
cronks out his grumbles after tea,
head thrust forward, throat hackles erect,
gravel in the syrinx. My friend mutters,
“Don’t hold back--Say it like you mean it.”
The white eye ring is raven’s punctuation.
Soon he will rant from the second tree.
Note: Photo made at Peter Adam’s Windgrove, Tasmania
When Earth paints stone
She can stop breath.
Her palette is alive
in lichens on rock,
mineral stains that take
a thousand years,
ochers and siennas.
blacks and grays,
foliose lichen sulfurs
and Pistachio green,
spashes of umber
speckled with fungal
fruits of orange.
A border of moss
above it slate blue
as if splashed rain.
Beyond the eyes
Her textures beg
But not today.
A woodfrog hops toward the thawing pond.
A big lens of ice has sunk, a long crack across.
A foot of meltwater colors the sunken ice yellow.
The frog was frozen hard too until days ago,
but he doesn’t know or care. He’s been frogsicle
several years now, and today he needs to sing.
On the frog’s left hind leg a bright spot of green,
a duckweed leaf that froze with him and
with him comes again to life. In minutes its root
will again dangle in the pond, and divide
while around it woodfrogs lay egg masses
and males spill sperm on them to make tadpoles,
so once again life force will flow.
This ancient liverwort thrives on ashes,
grows in a stone fire ring. It is a clone
of the brown parent next door.
The mini-volcano calderas erupt
all over the green hands of the plant.
With the help of raindrops
these little cups create clones.
When a raindrop splashes a cup,
green mini-balls erupt and hurtle out
in a circle. Some will land well and grow,
for each tiny ball is like a seed
with only one parent, a clone.
Here we have circles, as everywhere.
Small green craters struck
by spherical drops of rain
that splash tiny green balls of life
outward in a spray circle
that replays every cycle and circle
all life spins in, from planet to eyeball.
Note: Photo taken in Peace Fire Pit at Windgrove, Tasmania.
Spring has Sprung,
Pussy willows glow with light in every marsh.
They lived in vases in childhood’s house.
The skin of my palms and fingers still
recalls the half-tickle caress of furred flower buds
as I pull my loose hand up from base to tip
of a long willow branch, bud to bud
after a long winter for hands in mittens.
A dry leaf rests on a branch
just before snowmelt.
I’m grateful for color,
even this russet
that predicts decay.
Worn sawteeth of leaf-edge
curl just below buds.
An irony easy to enjoy.
INVITE to WRITE #35 and RESPONSES to INVITE #34
This image shows a powerful movement of water, but also appears to show vegetation. All this bathed in unusual light. A strong urge flows downward as the green develops the shape of a funnel. The image is a kind of visual fantasy. Please don’t worry about facts and identity when you write. Instead, as you contemplate the image, let it tell you a story, an incident within a story perhaps, rather than a completion. Entries are due Wed. April 4, and will be published Friday, April 6. Please email entries to:
RESPONSES to INVITE #34 were few, I suspect because of the marvelous warm weather across most of the U.S. But what poems did come in are worthy, and should be read. The process we are engaged is the development of a Morning Earth Community. Please do not hesitate to comment to the writers by return email, and I will pass them on. Thank you for reading, and hopefully responding.
It happens often to me.
Everyone is thinking something
Or doing something
And I am not in concert.
And face the wall
Consider, as I stretch....
Do I want to...?
Always the question.
And the answer...?
~~Sarah Zuccarelli, New Hampshire
I can flap and scramble
To join you in your high place,
To march atop the rock,
Wherever you are headed I can go.
Who you follow I can follow too.
But look at how your
beaks turn down,
and you don’t march
Your feet are undecided,
May I suggest
Forget the perfect fluff of your dark outfits,
forget the comfort of the crowd.
Come down one by one and let’s examine
the shades and crags of the rock
you stand upon.
I know a little melt pond
With grass and weeds,
perhaps a frog or two.
We can play
~~Mary S. McConnell, Wisconsin
Always I was the one on the ground,
Looking up to the higher branches
Where the other children had climbed,
Where they hung and laughed
Like wild plumed birds,
Their voices untethered balloons
Bouncing in the afternoon air.
I stretched to lift myself
On tiptoes, my fingers grazing
The rough calloused bark,
Praying to the playground gods
To sprinkle me with courage,
Wanting the ground to hold me firm
But aching also
To lift myself up, perch
On those curving branches
And dangle my feet without fear.
~~Ellen Collins, Virginia
WHAT YOU DON"T SEE
Hey, why not try --
try to fly
instead of dully
All the same color,
same black beat --
I can't walk
with your flat feet.
I'm not saying
that I am right,
but all my dreams
have been of flight.
You may be higher
up than me,
but my little springboard,
is what you don't see.
And you, or you, or you, or you --
you could come with me,
try it, too.
But if you won't,
I'll leap alone,
and you can plod on,
plod on home.
~~Maggie Gallivan, San Juan Island, WA
KIDS’ POEMS by Tim Deyle’s 5th graders, Fargo, North Dakota
I see a yellow duck,
Looking at black ducks.
The yellow duck is on its tippy toes,
Looking at the black ducks above.
Six normal black ducks,
One unique and yellow duck,
They are all special.
Different is cool,
Different is swell,
Being different shows you are really special.
Different is ok,
Different is fine,
Being different is really divine!
Different is amazing,
Different is new,
Be different, only you can be you!
Fuzzy, fuzzy little duck,
Black-in-yellow, yellow-n- black.
What’s the difference?
They’re basically the same.
Cute little ducklings,
All walking on a ledge.
Cute little birds,
Talking to each other.
The black ones walk on and on.
Leave the yellow one alone,
leaving her there,
To try and get back up on her own.
She can’t do it alone.
The black ducks are black,
A bit different than the yellow.
But they are the same,
~~Hannah Devine and Lea Paxton
Black duckling, black duckling what do you see?
“I see a yellow duckling looking at me.”
Yellow duckling, yellow duckling
What do you see?
“I see black ducklings
marching over me.”
Dark ducks waiting to scare a yellow duck,
Up the stairs he goes scared.
Chicken all the way,
Keep going you can do it.
Surprise! They are friendly after all.
A warm spring night.
Left the porch light on.
In the morning the white wall
is festooned with early moths
that broke their diapause,
climbed from cocoons,
filled their spreading wings
and to my porch light flew
to rest on my stucco,
good grip for moth claws.
This dark and burly little moth
testifies to extreme hair
that sweeps back from the head
in two robust hummocks
black with gray that shades
toward tawny where
it is sheared off square
as if with sharp shears,
a sort of 50s pompadour
begun but suddenly refused.
If the moth did not need it, it wouldn’t be there.
But why, pray tell, why all this hair?
A pond in an oak woods.
Castoffs piled on one side,
weathered branches shed by oaks,
a holey machine part shed by a farm.
Stamped Iron and dry oak, stubborn and strong.
I find a few cut stones, a limestone lintel
cracked, but no foundations,
turn a rusted fender with fast black beetles.
Stuff gets left by all that lives,
mostly to decay and return,
but there are still people somewhere
who tell of the old place that went bust
back then, the one by the pond.
Way up in New Zealand North,
a beach curves into distance,
bending the azure Tasman sea.
When the kids descend tall dunes,
they drive their shoes into sand toe first,
and yell that it’s barking sand.
It’s more yelp than bark, but
no one hears me say it. The young
of a sudden are running to water
with my suddenly teenage daughter,
and I am plodding old again until
shriek and splash lift me into now,
and drive my toe into the yelping sand.
In meltwater an oak branch discovers sun again,
a revelation of colors bright engulfed in drear ice and snow.
Bubbles are everywhere in ice, trapped gas waiting for release.
Everywhere on the oak branch, cups of fruiting lichen,
gold to gray to green.
I am immersed again, like the lichened oak,
in the great circle of Earth’s orbit round the sun.
This ice water is not cold, for every bubble round
signifies connection to the whole, and each bright lichen cup
warms me in connection.
Against a cold and clouded sky,
paired fifth year eagles perch.
They look opposite directions.
The smaller male has completed
adult plumage, head & tail full white.
His larger mate has not quite.
The back of her neck is brown,
her tail darkened with brown specks,
some dark above her eyes.
She is a little late, just out of sync,
as some of every species teeter so.
You? If memory serves, me too.
I wonder, will this be a problem
in this new pairing, first nest and all?
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