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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning EarthPoems
April 2003



Three hen pheasants sashay through woods,
pick and peck at leaves just out from snow.
Dawn embroiders feathers the color of leaves
in patterns cryptic, intricate.

A fourth hen follows at distance, minutes after.
She is utterly in the moment as her beak
searches leaves, so intent, so evolved to blend--
when she pauses she keeps losing my eyes.


The pheasant's state of focused intention enabled me to join her, and lose my ego for a moment. This is the gift of all wild things to self-conscious us.



Juniper has first fruits,
berries blushed blue
full formed under snow, with just
that light that seeped
through snow to grow
these cones that pretend-play
berry so birds will eat them,
etch their seeds
and plant them far away.


Beautiful juniper "berries" are really modified cones to entice birds to disperse juniper seeds. This is symbiosis; both partners benefit. Cooperation is at the root.



The possum rakes frozen mud
beneath the feeder.
Her fur is the unlovely color of my mind
as I stand beneath a dingy sky
and stare at fallen browns,
until the tail high pheasant walks his cocky walk
up to the possum, swells his russet breast,
leaps up to the seeds, breaks his fast
and breaks my lips to smile.


I love the ways earth insists I get over my self. If we pay attention, our shadows are redeemed.



A hundredweight of grackles curves oak boughs down.
They've flocked to strip the feeders,
every nearby tree is ridden black.
Now their soul is multiple and one,
flock is all.

But as Spring warms males will pull themselves away,
dot branches one by one with black
and on the platforms strut, stretch high
their iridescent heads and capes,
swell ruffs against the other males.

And as it warms, sly females slip away to spy
the strut and threat of male, assess
paraded puissance, imagined territory held.
Now paired souls will nest within the roost,
flock sustained.


The clamor of the grackles winces eardrums. Their yellow eyes! Such masses are uncomfortable for those whose hearts go out to the solitary. Such profligate community. Imagine how the human swarm works on the cousins.



Quick wide wings blur as
five pheasants burst up into sky.
Once high, they arrow down
a shallow slope of air toward
bushes and brown grasses.
As their wings whir they spread
themselves to directions five.
Each ensures that only one may
make a meal, and four birds will survive.


The survival instinct of coveys and flocks is to confuse the predator's eye with sudden simultaneous flight, followed by spreading wide for cover. The predator must make an instant choice to follow one pheasant, which will hit the ground running in the direction of its flight, continuing the spread, increasing safety for the rest. There are advantages in community.



Harriers are back, ride wind
fifty feet above the marsh.
Two large females test each other
for this fine site to nest,
for this fine hunting ground.
Straight on they hurl, talons out,
wing slamming wing,
beaks too fast to see.
A crafty tilt and dip away
as one shows she's done.
The smaller male watches, waits.


Soon they will nest. When she is brooding eggs and chicks, he will hunt for food. If he dare come to the nest, she will be fierce. Instead, he'll signal from the air that all is clear; she will fly up and catch the prey he drops. Competition first, then cooperation. Harriers are large hawks formerly called marsh hawks.



A few years back
a young ironwood sprouts,
finds hardness in its way, red
boulder rolled and dropped
by ice ten thousand years ago.
Tree meets stone sprout-on,
grows a hug round smooth red stone,
borrows boulder's strength in storm,
embraces stone in slow tree time,
gives old stone a little lift.


We all must play the cards we're dealt. Mutuality is often an unexpected result.



The bracket fungus
rides a dead oak,
helps the tree rot,
helps the tree devolve
to earth and air,
eats the tree inside,
where thin tubes
soften cells that have not
been alive for eighty years,
once pure antigravity,
pure lift to light, slowly
hollowing the center,
but on the bark
grows this lovely
scallop patterned
bracket fungus fruit.


Decay is rarely pretty, but often beautiful. Lighting helps. Fungi are the kingdom of return.



To warm, soil wakes.
Nematodes uncurl and thread
soil like spun glass,
to warm wake pale grubs,
and springtails barely seen,
mites and fungi threads,
and all the billion lives
too small for imagination's dream.
Earthworms quest pink tips to air,
taste leaf and pull it down to nibble on.
Now tulips thrust out and up
eager to unwind to light
before the acorns sprout
who've doffed their caps to tulip red.


Resurrection is April's theme. Ice is finally out on the deepest wetlands. Frogs are gathering. Wheelies are popping.



Killdeer stands one-legged
on the edge of blacktop at dawn.
Her collar is black, her bib.
Commuters roar by.
She doesn't budge.
Her planted leg aims
at earth's core,
other tucked up
to her growing eggs.
She stands plumb.
She has aplomb.
She doesn't budge.


Strange bird, killdeer. Shorebird that forsakes water for grasslands, egg layer with no nest, chicks that feed themselves from hatch. Now she decides cars are irrelevant. Her stance has gravity.



Ice-out four days ago.
The first painted turtle
has delivered herself from mud
and climbed the floating log to bask.
For months she breathed through leg skin,
transformed water into breath.
For months she lived cold, heart
hardly beating, slowed.
For hours she has given herself
to sun, to atmosphere, to lungs,
warming torpor into hunger and desire.
Soon shallows will whirl.


By day's end, the first had been joined by other young turtles (see attached). The larger, older turtles are slower to wake; large bodies require longer to warm. These amphibious reptiles existed long before the dinosaurs.



Cats on windowsills
Cold April rain
Four silent tails


This rain is a great blessing, but the cats don't agree. Nothing flying, no imagined hunt, no spying.



The big south wind of spring
surprises stubborn leaves
from young oak trees and whirls them across sky.
Long catkins torn from the aspen,
cluster and sway in wind
on dark marsh water like seafloor worms
with feather gray gills
and shiny bud scale heads.
Waves of frogsong arrive on gusts
that flutter deer hairs
groomed by prickly ash. Up the hill
tall oaks rub against each other,
cry out and moan like lovers
ambushed by the spring.


There is nothing like the way wind and storm rearrange our perceptions of the familiar. I rather enjoy having my senses shaken up, but not too often. Everything transforms.



After heavy rain
lichens leap into the eye, tissues
gorged with greens and ochers
After heavy rain in spring,
Earth smells old, smells of mosses,
algaes and of liverworts,
first smells for nostrils flared.
Mosses race to ripen spores
nodding on quick capsule stalks.
Inside folds of lichen, whole ecologies
are born again, drying and reviving
for long years on stones and oaks.


Pinhead-size water bears unroll from dessication in the lichens and prowl on eight legs for prey also rain-revived. They dry and live, dry and live in a serial xeric existence.



Last week's red maple buds
sudden wide.
Golden stamens, filaments,
tender fountains.


As gold joins bud-red the whole tree changes character, a becoming, a new sense of fruition. Soon, whirligigs of summer.



Raindrops plink the dark
mirror of pond,
each births a small ripple circle.
When the muskrat churns in,
and surface dives to den,
strong ripples bob and cancel
for one instant
all the ripple splash of rain.


When you look at the small things, be wakeful. Try to see as you did as a child. Earth is always a continual feast for eyes.



The mallard drake clambers up
the floating log and stands upright.
Against this drear day's gray,
wet legs, broad webbed feet,
epiphany of orange.


How grateful the eye when color comes onstage. Contrast is the key to perception. As Rumi said "The door is round and open."



The clatter and clack,
clacker and clack as
woodfrogs clap
castanets out-of-sync,
clap warm night into
old chaos sprung
from robbers' masks.

I love the woodfrog clatter. Ten years ago, we couldn't sleep through it. Now it is sadly attenuated. We have managed to decimate their numbers. How odd that all unwitting we are stilling voices that were old before dinosaurs.

Against the threnody
of daylong rain,
one song sparrow
urges spring,
insists on spring
with all-day song.

How beautifully disinterested in human "takes" on rain is the song sparrow and his endless seductive arias.



A pheasant hen,
interrupted in her tryst
with the gorgeous cock,
flies to a sapling's top,
flusters her feathers,
squawks and squawks
her two beat outrage at
the impudence of cat.

Cats have no sense of decorum. None. This hen quit her scolding after awhile and flew to join her mate, who had wisely left the scene. The cat sauntered from the bushes, tail up.



At dusk, pond water ripples,
turtle-roiled, as they dance
the dark with maybe mates.
Now and then a little surge
of water white.
What they do not do now
is thumb their heads up
to look about. All of interest
is below the surface
in this older round.


Ah, spring.



I startle the first
great heron from the pond.
Wide wings sweep grayblue,
sharp-fold head and neck,
slow cup sky,
stroke strong.
We rise.


When beauty flees us, we choose our response.
We can retreat to ego and feel badly at our loss.
Or we can create distance by rationalizing: The heron's flight is inevitable because over time they have learned that we are dangerous…"
Or we can accept the gift of the heron's existence and our participation in it, however brief.



The little cat sits upon
the large painted turtle,
who easily accepts this weight
as she lumbers on through leaves.
The large cat follows, not sure
what he's seeing, two
of these three chance-met
beings not sure what's going on,
except the wet-shelled painted turtle.
She is clear:
she's going to dig a hole
and squeeze out her wrinkly eggs.


Jem is small but always ready for a ride. Reptile muscle is stubborn and as strong as necessary. The turtle is unafraid. What peace of mind a shell must bring. While many turtles are now mating, a few are laying eggs. Like many reptiles, turtles can sequester sperm in a special pouch for months and years, and use it as needed. And as we humans swarm, we insist that reptiles are lower life-forms.

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