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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning EarthPoems
April 2004



It’s cold, but it is again the morning
of Earth, the time for opening
of warm throats in song
lifted warm to dawn. Phoebe
punctuates the birdsong with
his repeated raspy name.
Just north, harriers contest the morning sky,
Two females and one male scree and dive
across the blue. Wait, the small white male
stoops deep, just above the willow brush
pulls up into loops and rolls. No
fight, it’s a mating flight. Which
Will choose him? Will they both?
The marsh below is prime for meadow voles.
How many nests has he begun to
woo them? With all his rapid heart
he races sky toward an interloping redtail
twice his size, screams as he dives down
and drives away the hunting
morning-hungry redtail who has himself
a female brooding eggs to feed.


Territoriality is at its peak. The imperatives are simple: Reproduce your kind. Feed the mate brooding the future. Defend the chosen place.


The dark is filled with clack and quack
deep below the trill of chorus frogs.
Woodfrog males in robber masks
have begun to entreat
females wearing dominos
to snowmelt pools in field and wood
to be embraced and shed their eggs
so together they can wriggle tadpoles
which, with luck and small evaporation
will themselves wear tiny masks
and next spring hang in water by their eyes
and clatter night to beg embrace,
or concealed by dominos,
hop to handsome clatterers to be embraced.


Love is in the air all day now and all night. Woodfrogs are what they call explosive breeders, by which is meant they get it done within 3-4 days.
Woodfrogs are challenged singers who sound more like mallards than a frog should dare. But they are much older than the ducks. Who copied whom?


Last night ice sent crystals out into
the shallow ponds where frogs trilled for love.
Cold grew long peninsulas of ice
no breath of wind disturbed. At the center
crystals touched and sudden sped across
the water open still and locked its surface hard.
Where stems reached up wood frogs
and small chorus frogs clambered up
and out of ice, hopped to shores
and hid until sun rose high enough
to dissolve the surface glass
and release the ponds to midday song.


It became so quiet last night it woke me. Ice often interrupts springtime love, but surging song is ever ready to resume.


Sunset caught in every aspen
glows every dangling catkin white
as all the fuzzy cattail fields backlit bright.
Catenary curves of phone lines regress
along the road, shining to infinity.

Later moon lifts huge and orange through
tangled oaks, lifts into
a field of stars so close that hands
stir upon their wrists and hope for touch.

Whole again and strong with birth
moon honors season’s turn
as below on earth first spring peeper
throats swell moonlets round and white
in fresh meadow ponds that borrow all the sky.


As above, so below.


Wakes upon the morning ponds, straight
white lines filled with wood ducks
sorting out their pairs. They carve water fast in threes,
two splendid drakes, a female just in front.
How the trios leap up into air and curve
above treetops, take the mating off
to other waters. They seem to leap up
all at once together, but the female is
by an instant, first. She is testing males,
will make her choice, as the avatars of Gaia
must to keep the babies strong.


Females choose, across the spectrum of kinds. Even males beautiful as wood drakes can only pursue and fan hope with their exertions.


Now wildflowers begin,
sometimes beneath leaves
where none can see.
Hepatica is early here,
buds up, open wide in warm
when insects fly, closed tight
in cold, guarding pollen,
saving gold for tiny lovers
who dance on wings
from bloom to bloom.


Plants can read the thermometer.Many spring flowers know the trick; they sequester their pollen and scent on cold days to protect flowers from mammal depredations. Reproduction is not achieved lightly.


Two big hawks contest the near sky,
Each circling tight above the other, pressing down.
Above them a third hawk circles to watch the fight.
As the two break off and lift higher, they
reveal their part in a tall kettle of redtails,
all choosing different heights to soar.
The highest are specks against gray cloud.
Long I watch hawks spiral the sky—
when I come to myself I am swaying like kelp
At the root of an ocean of air.

Truly the atmosphere is an ocean, and we live in the benthos of a gravity well. The great circle of the season wheels through the heavens and we with it. So many birds are traveling north. Ragged skeins of cormorants travel high, formations unraveled by wind. With me on the seafloor, white-throated sparrows kick up leaves, and fox sparrows are as bright with spring russet as were the leaves last autumn.


This April forest floor I walk is brown with fallen leaves,
dark with exposed soil where squirrels and birds
have kicked the leaves aside in search of acorns and insects
stiff with morning chill, but here and there the mosses mound
bright green and send the sporecaps dancing up toward light,
but the winter-hungry eye desires a spectrum wide—here
furled buds of meadow rue push purple into air, there
a small cup fungus glows a scarlet of a texture velvet plush,
like the velvet red mites that the tasting tongues of garter snakes,
tipped red themselves, will soon break fast upon.
Through the colonnades of trees I see two pheasants
play at spring—guess who is chasing, who the chased.


Wakeful attention will fill the eye with riches, curve the lips to grins.



Bless the maple for leaves red-orange in fall,
for your eye’s delight and mine,
Bless the maple for its knotholes in cold winter,
to shelter chickadee and nuthatch,
Bless the maple for its flowers red in spring,
for the delectation of the squirrel,
Bless the maple for its pollen gold
that is cast upon the wind,
Bless the maple for its sweet abundant sap
that curls the lively tongues of beings of four legs and two.
For its green cascade
bless the summer spill of light from leaf to leaf.


Who am I to cast blessings? As you, I am a bit of Earth made conscious, or somewhat so, and given voice to use.



Ripples and reflections occupy spring waters,
occupy the depths among the willow roots.
Hard to find within reflections’ dance
the ripple’s core. What splashed? Basho’s
frog, plunked in again?
There is no sound save loud spring wind
that slopes down to mirror-pond and stirs
one twig that sprawls across a fallen branch
and dips just into the center of the ripples
in the mirror and, tip wet, vibrates there.

A twig in wind. A butterfly in China.
How can we know the chaos from the dance?
All I’m sure of in this moment is the pair of dragonflies
flying in the mating wheel around the pond,
releasing tiny eggs round as ripples just above the glass.
Some will fall to minnows, some to larvae, some to mud
to hatch and crawl someday up a stem to split husk
and stretch wings of netted mica round the pond.
One day in wind the larval discard skeleton will
drop from stem and make its ripples there.



For hours through storm dark
the sharp clear pipes
of spring peepers
ride the thunder
in pure joy of rain.

How these one inch froglets can pierce through thunder is a mystery. They do rejoice emphatically in rainstorms, while we wait for power outages.



All evening wood ducks windmill sky.
Singletons and pairs, they fly rapid
graceful downslope turns until,
nest tree near, they turn abruptly,
turn again as they home in, keeping speed
right up to the sudden branch,
so no hunter sees.


Wood ducks are wonderfully swift and agile flyers. They put all their skill to work to deny predators the location of the nest. The shared condition of life is peril.



Five deer graze close to trees
a hundred yards off the road.
White flags flick as they feel
my eyes. Two edge closer to cover.
When I go still, five heads bend again
to just-up greens, but when
they lift they stare at me in turn.
Between us lies a cattail marsh
filled with redwing blackbird males
contesting boundaries to territories.
Epaulets are wide and bright orange-red.
Females will show up any day.
In any moment, half the males sing loud
challenges to interlopers perched too close.
Chorus frogs add their trills
as spring peepers pipe.
Deer could care less for redwings or frogs,
except when they go silent, but for this time,
I have deer with symphony between.


Sometimes males put on a fine show. Cherish the intense moments.



A solitary mallard drake
hangs around the pond today,
splashes around the floating log.
His wings pound water into light
as he stands upon his tail.
He leaps up on the log— Orange!
Feet of orange!


Every spring I am amazed anew by the mallard’s feet, and every year I laugh. It’s as if reality has gone Loony Tunes.



All the way north
The sandhill crane stretches to arrive,
and with each wing stroke her voice
haunts a chambered throat
with rolling horns we know

from when we were wild
and held to our mouths
the spiral horns of antelopes
and raised them toward
the flying cranes.

All the long way north,
crane preens each night
with beakfuls of clay,
paints her feathers
so on her nest she will
be earth invisible.


Sandhill cranes are flying north above my home and singing as they go. They’re on the last leg of the flight to the nesting grounds, after resting in the Missouri bottoms in Nebraska. Their cries pierce us to the root.



Pond is mirror-still, riffed with light
where wanders breeze. As if on cue
a dozen blue-winged teal splash down,
swim fast in the urgency of spring.
They all wear the white crescent of the drake—
save one, who is the object of their chase.
Here and there a male flies up,
splashes down, tail-stands in display
and showers sparks with wings. All
swim fast, female first, until abruptly all
leap straight up and fly away.
As I reflect on gender in the mirror of the teal,
trees reflected in the pond do not return.
North wind has come with day.


Mirror, mirror on the pond…



On either end of night
the beauty of their cries:

  long after sundown two loons flew home to nest,
plaited sky with the pleasure of their voices,

and now in morning dark a hopeful snipe
already winnows sky, warms
the females in the marsh with the pleasure
of the voice of his wind in diving wings.


Be alert to synchronicity (the coincidental occurrence of events that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality). We all experience this, but are taught to dismiss it as "just coincidence." But they are a joy, with or without theory.


A brown bird lands in cattails,
a redwing sees and epaulets flashing
flies a hundred yards
beyond his own patch of marsh
to attack and roust
the brown cowbird who sought
to lay her eggs in redwing nests.


The cowbird is a nest parasite who has benefited from human woodland cutting. Most woodland and marsh birds are helpless before this parasite. I am heartened to see that redwings know her well, and doubly glad to see that this male chased her off without personal benefit. Altruism is a good thing to see in any species.


As wind moves in
on this first hot night
frogsong arrives in waves,
swells with wind, falls off
and swells again into the sleepy ear.

If this were vision and not song,
dark water so still it borrows stars
would riffle with wind,
sweep starlight to oblivion,
calm to redeem stars, chop
them into water-gleams bright
as spring peeper pipes.


Bless nights warm enough to open windows.



As wind moves in
on this first hot night
frogsong arrives in waves,
swells with wind, falls off
and swells again into the sleepy ear.
If this were vision and not song,
dark water so still it borrows stars
would riffle with wind,
sweep starlight to oblivion,
calm to redeem stars, chop
them into water-gleams bright
as spring peeper pipes.


Bless nights warm enough to open windows.