Puns can become a poem.
How I loved birch bark as a child, when still a wonder. A bit older, how beautifully it fed a fire. How now its texture amazes my hand as its curl plays my eye.
From Kearney, Nebraska, eager to see cranes wake at dawn tomorrow.
This crane has been daubing its feathers with clay of gold.
This was suddenly being in the presence of a vast and older power that was both manifold and one. It took no time, took all time, it emptied me and filled me, tore me and completed me.
Sun eased up the horizon just
in time to paint these feathers
underwing, paint them colors
we cannot name as these great birds
rise from sleep and safety, lift from
roosting in the river shallows.
Now this pair scoop wind
and carry all the colors of the dawn
toward the cornfields and fresh meadows
where grain and shell of snail
will prepare the ripening of egg
and fuel muscle for the journey north.
It is hard to convey the joy of these tremendous birds that carry sunrise in their wings.
The pair stands at the center,
forage kernels left from harvest.
Over her shoulder she preens a wing,
the stretch opens her brood patch,
already bare but white. Soon it will
grow new blood vessels and glow red.
The brood patch is a circle, with
a feather ruff for edge, which will settle
round the egg and chick to shut out wind
while the brood patch warms.
They are paired, and in the wisdom of the flesh
this April morning they prepare to mate.
She is growing eggs, his cloaca is engorged.
Both are painting feathers for their camouflage.
Soon they will open the circle they center to fly
a thousand miles north and draw it closed again.
The sandhill crane, from fossil evidence, has been completing this circle of renewal for some ten million years.
In this sudden onset sapling maples bloom,
and tomorrow squirrels will tap their sap
and let it run dark over smooth maple bark.
Young squirrels will lick and look and lick,
amazed, while flowers turn more gold than red.
Chickadee will land if there’s a twig and lick her full,
and nuthatch will race wild spirals
up and down the sapling tapped, graphing
tiny four-toed paths of wet black sap
up and down the maple’s bark.
Every fly with a sweet tongue will land in sap
and long will lap, at times too long, for
their six thin legs won’t come undone.
And all the while the flowers pay no mind,
for its golden pollen they are growing
and the wind will be their love.
We all live this month inside the myth. Have your joy of it.
Deer walk among the cranes
as if they lived in golden myth.
Cranes know deer come to drink.
A yearling makes a little charge,
a few cranes spread their wings and hop-lift.
It’s done, the young deer satisfied.
The pod of deer ambles through the ranks
of dawnlit sandhill cranes
roosting on the Platte’s north bank,
walk into the current shallows for a drink.
A pair of killdeer wheel and cry.
It is the morning of the Earth.
Hicks and his Peaceable Kingdom never were, of course, but the myth is fine. It’s not a pair of vegan species, not that politics—cranes eat lots of snails, frogs, even crayfish. Big eggs require big shells.
What is born from Earth?
What is born so pale-fuzzed
from out a mauve case
all asunder split?
What is born again has slept
all this season cold,
and now it shall unfold
to create again its mystery
of green and sun
that opens all to life, for
every life is born of Earth
and fed by green and sun.
All plants are amazing when they part the soil to birth themselves again, so lovely in their particulars, so delicate. This wild ginger bud seems half feather, half plant, its white-fur patterns branching and re-branching. Go out and gently move some leaves aside. Now draw down close.
Painted turtles court now in the pond.
I watch a small turtle haul out upon a small floating log,
where it basks, head stretched up to sun.
A larger turtle tries the little log, but rides it
down below waterline. It noses the small turtle,
finds no interest, leaves the log, swims off.
Its head joins six others thumbing up and sinking back,
ripples in dark water. Mouths of minnows join
the ripple-makers. As I watch, three more
larger suitors check out the small turtle
on its barely floating log.
All around the water swirls as painted turtles
perform their underwater arabesques.
When they break to breathe, heads pop up
ripple ringed, join the minnow ripples
all across the living water.
Who is that in the reflection?
Bloodroot’s in bloom, and hepatica, two
loveliest of Spring, and two
Hepatica for the foliage liver-lobed,
bloodroot sanguine for its juicy
not red at all.
It is said that a Spring-struck Ponca lad
would paint his palm with bloodroot sap
and hold the hand of his intended, who
shortly would commit her heart,
wrap herself around him like the very
bloodroot leaf enfolds the flower, or,
say lads are always gullible, and
so much for lore.
So many botanic names are analogues of human parts that we seem just the least bit self-important. Hepatica is so stunning a flower that any association we give it to liver dismays me. (I was, like many children, required to eat of the liver of the cow, the calf, and whitetail deer). Go look at wildflowers. Notice that the single bloodroot leaf arrives in light wrapped tight about the flower, which emerges from it like a fountain.
A crane flew over me
today, silent and single.
What a change from the horns
that wander the sky.
Some mid-days they rest
in the cattails downmarsh, hidden.
Even midday murmurs
are mellow trumpets sounded
through tubes coiled
to enrich the sound.
When pairs stretch up in unison
and call, that chord carries in it
all music, all love, all time.
Cranes have coiled their tracheal horns for at least ten million years. We learned how some 250 years ago. For hunting horns. We are so young.
It’s not that things are open,
it’s that things are opening.
It all unfolds again, fiddle scrolls of fern
unroll from under soil to light,
their rolled fronds again augur unborn
animals folded in a possum pouch of green,
flower buds unwrap their stars
petal by petal around the wheel
to pinwheel into hearts again,
each time new, impossibly,
as we accept again this mood
of opening that’s pulled us along
like kids in a toy wagon
since we were new.
The fern is lady fern, the yellow bud is coltsfoot, and the pink bud is rue anemone, all wildings here.
Wood ducks froth the ponds, drakes
arrow strong-waked after drakes, hens watch.
A chased drake leaps ashore and runs,
the chaser circles him right back into water.
Catches up and rides him as if a hen, swims off.
Neither thought of taking wing.
It would break the whole
meaning of this Spring. Always
there are more drakes than hens,
who choose the best to pass up time.
When all are gorgeous, how is a girl to choose? From their plainer plumage they cast careful eyes.
Six long wings beat as if one being flies
into dawn for the ten millionth time,
this family of cranes, parents and yearling,
singular as three lives can be.
Great spread-finger wings thrust to
the pull of the planet and trumpet success
in a choir of curled horns. Love it:
In unison they sing of six synchronous wings.
Sandhill cranes usually raise one chick; the three migrate together twice, south, then north. I believe the three center birds to be such a family
Grains of sand in a streambed
find the shapes of flow, which are
the shapes of water on its way made visible,
are the shapes dune sand takes in wind
absent the angle of repose. Downstream,
In sand plateaus and cliff-edge shadows
I see a fractal Earth from altitude,
the flow of stone in uplift, lava ripples,
epochs of rain and ages of wind.
Water, wind—fluids work their sculpt
of fish and bird, mountains, valleys
and lovely, even of these worn down
boulders we call grains of sand.
Flux and flow. Perhaps that’s all we need to know. The microcosm contains the macrocosm. They are coeval, and of long birthing. We mobile packages of ocean scramble about the earth fascinated with other waters and their workings.
Given to my morning eyes
a mated pair of wood ducks
swim across the mirror pond,
drake before, all royal velvet.
Swimming in procession now
a mated pair of blue-winged teal
swimming in the same calm,
curling light into the mirror, this pair,
the moon-blazed drake behind.
Any odd thing can be given to your morning eyes, which are prepared to accept. Mysteries of this sort delight and reassure. I’ve never noticed teal and wood ducks together on the pond before, but it’s possible they do it every morning, this procession to the duckweed building up in the shallow end.
Giant Canada geese are loud in love,
announce intention to the universe,
splash down hard upon the pond
and begin to bob and bow heads
deep under water. This in unison.
After a time, he mounts her, and
is quickly done. Now the fun.
Each lifts its rump off the water
and waggles it side to side
so fast it blurs. Now they swim
rings around their mating
which widen to the shores.
In turn the lovers stand upon their tails,
heads high, beat wings free
of any need to fly, for they
are exactly in the universe
where they want to be.
So totally present in the moment are these huge birds that I want to join. Ah well.
The very soil has bloomed
scarlet beneath wan leaves of Fall,
a fruit has pushed dark out of its way all
in a night, bits of humus cling. If
a fallen branch had not prevented,
this fruit would shape itself as goblet
and earn its name of elf cup.
Beneath the beauty, thin threads
of Earth’s placenta stream,
the mycorrhizal net of fungus
that gives our eyes this red
And feeds well these trees
when in Spring woods none else
speaks so color-strong.
Mycorrhiza names the lovely symbiotic relationship of soil fungi with 95% of plants. Myco- for fungus; rrhiza for root. The fungus receives carbohydrates it can’t make for itself; the plants and trees receive a vastly extended root system and increased minerals in their water. Few plants thrive without these partners. Cooperation is at the root.
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