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John Caddy
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John Caddy's

Morning Earth Poems

April 2009



Tree trunks angle sharp
as they enter water.
Even though sun is bright,
there is dark
in the geometry of flood.
The push of flow
on soil and root,
the pull downstream
a form of entropy.
Spring after spring,
whatever stands
learns to lean.



In barely breeze beneath bare trees
light and river make a mirror
where lines pay no homage
to the straight and narrow.
In this mirror, form is flow
and watercolor dance,
a path more promising
than our pre-flood eyes.



On the forest floor
ancient lives are waking,
snake-skinned liverwort
and froths of moss
gone green again in their
waltz with time,
hugging soil.
But this new season
an odd bit of lichen
has dropped in
from the mystery above
to offer a frisson
of winterkill white
and a splash of pink
to the palette of spring’s floor.



While mercury hovers at freezing,
a fitful wind licks
bits of last night’s snow
off branches into air
where they glide down
the angle agreed
by gravity and breeze.

Across the marsh, oaks’
every branch and twig
invoke the muse of filigree.
Soon, sun and cat’s paw air
will bare again black branches
white with last night’s fall.
Wet bark will offer memory.



First I hear throat-trombones from just over the hill,
then these rich horns of trumpeter swans
pull my eyes straight up the sky.
Head thrown back, I stand within deep time
where these voices announce spring warm
to rapt eyes gazing from hills and steppes
of every land, back when this music seized
and held the younger, wiser human heart.


As winter slowly retreats,
our bachelor beaver
patrols at dusk
along the edge of pond ice.
His eye is bright, his paddle strong,
his sapling harvest bountiful,
his life here a pleasure to my eyes.
But he takes three-inch
sapling in two bites!
Dropped a favorite birch!
Girdled a ten-inch oak and quit,
left it standing on a tent peg, dead.
On the other hand,
I’m living in his home,
what’s left.
And he is of the mystery.




The grackle guys are up for it again,
full well they know their power
in new warmth and spring light.
Each incredibly aware of other males,
aims his beak straight up into his private sky,
the sky he knows he owns.
Grackle girls don’t care
what a grackle guy believes or knows
as long as he is fit and beautiful
and dominant (with other guys).
Oh, and his feathers must be silken moss,
and oceans must surround his eyes.


Spring uncovers winter.
The jawbones of a whitetail deer
stained with oak leaf tannin brown,
just as deer hides cure and tan.

Wild mammal bones
uncoupled from the rest
wake a kinship of chagrin
and of mortality.




Her pods are winter-weathered rough.
But as turkscap lily prepares to release seeds
she reveals a branched tree of filigree
stretched between pod-halves that lifts
into a Moorish arch grown of her
strong fibers laced white against sky
as if she wished to postpone
sending off her sweet seeds.
Such needlework is mystery.





A hooded merganser displays
his erected hood
as he churns away from his mate
just after mating.

She splashes her head once or twice,
then hoists her beak to sky.


At times, nature’s mirror is inevitable, and great fun.


On an old oak log rides
an improbable white ear
that seems to have
no path into the brain.
Strange black figures
inside suggest
misplaced ear canals,
perhaps etched in black silk
by the tiny spider that strolls
slowly along cartilage
blanched white as cauliflower.

Wait a minute! This thing
is a cauliflower ear!
But where’s the boxer?
If he lies inside the log,
is he hearing me?



A beetle grub under bark hatches tiny
where its egg was laid and begins to eat
living wood, filled with tasty sap
that quickly grows the white grub
as it burrows, mandibles aclick,
back and forth through
turn after hairpin turn.
The grub etches a design
coded in its genes, a switchbacked
trail that mounts the steep hill
toward full beetleness.
Fat and changed, the grub
leaves design behind,
bores a tunnel beneath
its baby book, under and up,
as if not to deface its youth,
and chews toward the gallery
it will hollow out to sleep
through the pupal churn.



In beginning winter
beaver cut the birch tree down
and chewed off all the bark.
Now in Spring roots are pumping sap.
They do not know they’re dead.
Birds and squirrels stop by to lick,
soon mourning cloaks, with luck.

Many aspects of life jerk along after they are dead
like zombies in cheap cinema.
Monsanto’s Roundup wipes out frogs,
Monsanto’s BT corn wipes out butterflies and moths,
but the roots of these obscenities keep pumping.
Only the stock market stops by to lick.




Beaver rummaged under the pond bank
and came up with a root treat.
Now, as beaver rolls against his teeth
the tasty root, it satisfies so entirely
his eyes close and his flat tail curls.

Makes me wish we had tails to curl.
We must make do with our ten toes.



A rotting stump, some fallen leaves,
their golds and tans and fugitive greens.
Key light high, fill light pours up
through a soil-level hole.
This spring flood of photons
flows through my eyes
into my blood
and sparks each red cell alive.

A slow walk through spring woodland teaches me again why so many of us have worshipped our star.


A muskrat perches dripping
on a log to groom.
He hunkers on big paddle feet
With white claws to match.
He seems to hug himself
with small front hands
that also wear long claws
to winkle pondweed roots
from the mud they clasp.
When I look close I see his tongue
is sticking out at me.

I know, deep down, he’s simply grooming
and doesn’t give a whit for me. But still…



Rain sifts down,
the pond a thousand circles.
Feather moss is eager for a drink,
climbs over fingerless cousins.
It has long been dry, but April
has found her showers.
All about, bark darkens
as lichens and mosses swell.
Had such beings hands, they would
swipe their brows in relief,
had they brows.




Maple flowers have surged open,
dancing whole trees red again,
but for spring a red glow
touched with gold,
not the fire of fall.
Chickadees bounce aboard,
clip off bits to eat,
pluck a tiny bug or two,
treats for spring.
Leaf buds nestle near
each flower cluster, ready to green
this red and golden glow
that is resurgent fire,
not the farewell blaze of Fall.




Pussy willow has become a whole new being,
A feast of pollen gold has sprung
from soft and simple kitten gray.
It has become a flower, entirely male,
a hundred anthers sprung from fur.
Bees have come for nectar,
taking with them sticky pollen, so
the sweet promise of the early furry
pussy willow has come true.

Willow flowers are a kind of catkin.
The word catkin comes from the Dutch “katteken”, kitten.
Pussy willow rings true.



Crow knows, that’s all.
He watches me watch him,
and knows he honors me
by not taking wing.
He knows he is more fit,
has more humor too.
Crow knows how tasty
both scavenge and hunt.
We watch each other
watch the other.
We both collect bibelots.
Not so Other.
Makes me smile.


This coot floating on blue
really does cackle.
Bill clap and voice,
She points out to me
that as a predator,
I am ludicrously visible.

I find myself loving
her open mime-white beak,
cackle in return that
while my kind destroys
entire ecologies,
this old coot means well.

The bird coot claps her beak,
whirls, and rapidly
ushers her family away.




A redwing male,
come to quench a thirst,
takes a moment to assess
the Other mirrored in the pond,
gives him the bead-black eye.
The Other is not cowed. Unfazed.
Epaulets stay at full display.
To drink or not to drink?
The redwing hops away.