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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning EarthPoems
May 2002



They surge north in waves each night,
and in the morning wake the forest floor
with hop-and-kick, as if fallen leaves
were gasping. They know
that if they kick brown leaves enough
bugs in plenty will turn up
to fuel night's beating wings.

At dawn they wake me into song
that threads me into reverie,
the whitethroat's whistle-song
that tomorrow will pierce
the taiga's heart and cry, "Again".


The song of the whitethroated sparrow evokes the north like no other. It pierces deep, like the pipes or penny-whistle can. It is a somehow Celtic song.



The pond's goose pair honk loud and low,
snake their necks down
the water's surface, thrust
toward the two who violate
their nesting ground.
The others answer from the shallows,
notch it up some decibels.
How small and terrible
a goose can squinch its eye,
how black the snaking beak. But
somehow, first come, first nest
asserts itself, claim-jumpers fly
with imprecations trailing,
and the pond enjoys again the rules.


Territoriality is inherent in many of the cousins. It's especially compulsive during reproduction. The 'owners' of a territory almost always win conflicts with interlopers. Possession confers a mutually recognized authority on the owners, for all purposes a moral right.



First there is only a red tail up
over the edge of the feeder,
which bobs as the cardinal
searches out the perfect sunflower seed.

She sits near to watch his feathers bob,
and as he rises from black depths
with the prize seed in his beak,
her beak is lightly flushed.
He leans to tender his gift,
she ducks her head and leans to him.
As she accepts, their beaks touch.
She swallows. They will mate.


Throughout the biosphere, males court the females, and the females choose. Virtually all the choices that determine a species genetic fitness are made by females. There is no more charming an example of this natural law than the cardinal male in all his crimson glory courting the chosen female with a gift of food. "I will provide." And he has to do it every spring, even with the same mate. The pair bond is thus renewed. This is root stuff.



Catkins set seed, past flowering,
and cattails spear green through
their own bleached wind-rattle bones.
High above her marshland nest
where every bush buds yellow-green,
the harrier knifes across the sky.
How on this wild wind against
slate sky she slides flat out,
and out, and curves crosswind
behind the reddened tops of oaks.


Soon, for a month, she will fly only to catch the prey her mate drops from the sky. She is so fiercely territorial as she incubates that nothing living is allowed near her eggs.



Sonorous song rolls from behind oaks
before the sandhill crane comes into sight,
neck stretching to arrive, long legs trailed.
Wing deep, the huge rattling music is of the spiral
horns of grazers held to human mouths
on a grassland somewhen distant
from this marsh where this elder bird
this spring morning blesses me.


The lineage of cranes is among the oldest; they are unchanged from deep time. We have heard them and watched them dance forever. On the steppes they sang with mammoths.



Crow yanks the tail,
yanks the black and white band tail.
The tall hawk half-opens his wings,
leans forward for balance, but
his black beak stays with his meat.
He responds as if to wind.

Crow backs off and stares,
clacks her beak, runs up and yanks.
On yellow legs the great hawk sways,
finds balance, finds crow still
not worth a look, keeps ripping
good fat meat until
the burning hole in him is filled.

The crow as well has filled her need,
and leaves. The hawk, talons flexing,
dances for a moment on his meat,
hops aside to wipe his feet on grass,
and lordly looks about, surveys the land
his fierce brain rules, will not deign to see
the crow above him in a tree.


First things first. The red-shouldered hawk and the crow both balance as they must. I am delighted that the crow knows raven's trick of pulling tails. I'm doubly delighted that the hawk ignored him and refused the game.



Just before the thunderstorms, loud
rattles roll out of the woods
like notched wooden sewing spools
spun against a window pane
on childhood Halloweens.
I've heard this sound for years, but
have never seen the maker voice
this trickster's call, until now
I catch this rattling crow on old leaves,
covering his mate. Who else?


So many uncanny sounds in the woods spring from the throats of corvids--raven, crow, magpie, jay. They are legend's tricksters all across the world. I suspect they know it.



Four young rabbits, fur
in tufts from rain, play
Leapfrog and Catch Me!
through the soaked morning.

When one stops to nibble shoots
his sister bowls him down
and the game goes on.


Young beings play eternally. That's their job. Parents watch in joy and fear; that's theirs. The old watch and feel their muscles yearn. That’s mine.



I follow a song out of dream, exchange
for reverie the voice of a small bird
whose solo lifts awake the earth.
Intricate and elegant, each phrase as
certain as the sun--
this song could not be other--
while part of my delight pictures
small feathered heads cocked,
with me, hearing.


Wakeful attention is the goal, and a bird's song makes it easy when it catches you and carries you in a moment calm and willing. Being willing is the choice and the key.



The fox in the field stands,
looks at me level
without alarm,
sits down, and worries
his shoulder for fleas.

He is less red than
gold champagne.
He stands, lifts
his full tail as if to leave,
looks over at me standing,
curls his tail as he sits again
and nibbles after fleas.

An indigo bunting flashes by—
when I look back, the fox
has dissolved as
dream into day.


Lovely surprises, these moments when wild animals show no particular fear of you. Fox and vixen, of course, always have magic to back them up.



In bright sun,
the indigo bunting
flashes in,
lands on a white tulip,
bends it for a breath
and flies.


Be careful when you look up, you may be ambushed by joy. So much takes place in instants.



Plants thrust up from soil as if
from nether worlds, shapes strange
and all agleam with reds instead of green.
They are born to light wizened and
folded as a mammal babe
and as insistent to discover
light and to unfold.


As the oak tops are red now before emerging leaves take up their work, on the forest floor the blind urge toward resurrection spears up again. Shades of the Green Man, and Cadmus sowing dragon's teeth.



All night the songs of toad and treefrog
trill and soar on wind, punctuated
by spring peeper males whose throats,
after weeks, still swell with hope.

Just before dawn two tree swallows
mate, she stays perched, he
flutters and hovers above her
and each time he comes close
she prettily lifts her tail to greet him.

Beyond them in the pasture
two black horses roll
side to side in quickened grass,
and whicker when they rise.


These spring nights and wakings fold me into earth and notify my deepest self that I am home and have always been.



When the woods are wet with green
they sing with light that seems
to start inside each leaf,
each lichen on dark bark
and glows into moist air
inhaled by every spiracle and lung
to make more breath for trees.

The greens on rainy days endlessly astonish. Breathing on rainy days is equally fine. The great swap of CO2 for O2 between animal and plant is the co-evolved miracle of interliving that I celebrate.



Listen and smile tonight
to toadsong and treefrog song:

Many singers are done:
tadpoles of woodfrog and peeper,
grassfrog and chorus frog
already wriggle the ponds.
But the sweetest choir is now:
two high sustained many–voiced trills
all evening, all night, all a rainy day.

Toad is Bufo, Bufo means clown,
Treefrog is Hyla, Hyla climbs trees;
Now is the song of tree climber and clown

Toads and treefrogs choir concealed:
Toad’s beauty is wartless: his gold bejeweled eye
and his breakheart trill;
Treefrog sings from gray and from green,
from pools and from high in the trees.


Now is the canto of woods climber and clown
When white throats encircle life’s song.

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