Morning Earth Poems
We each want a place in the sun,
and enjoy it more when we claw
higher than our brethren, Them.
This is old beyond measure,
dates from that lost moment when
one paramecium wriggled closer
to the bacteria they were eating.
Its cilia vibrated with it.
A few million years later, turtles
discovered than sun was warm
and thus began the long strive
of upward mobility. Only the few
learn, once the top is reached,
how easy it is to topple
down to cold water.
Toad whirls back toward me
as if to say pugnaciously
I have no time for posing, fool,
I’m getting fit for breeding now.
as if I didn’t know that in late May
she would choose one singer
from night’s chorus, and allow
her lovely self to be his longa squeeze
before she lays the great string
of eggs that he will fertilize.
I knew that. Ach!
Females just before the eggs!
One photo is all I asked.
Females have such eyes,
and such authority.
It’s true that toads need to spend many days feeding after ice leaves the soil. They first have to dig upward several feet, after not eating for months. So energy reserves are slim at first, and food is the first priority.
Birch catkins pendant against fog have
yet no leaves, branch and dangling flower.
Sun rose into water droplet haze
that condensed on every surface here,
especially fogged the eyes,
so we here think we can’t see far,
but that is our illusion to begin.
In moments sun will offer light
to birch leaf buds climbing out to green,
and fog will dissolve with our illusion into dream.
Little wasp is elegant as bloodroot
as she lets the flower lure her
through spring air,
smart in her little black fur
to do the pollination
bloodroot think’s she’s for,
and doesn’t even notice
what the help has on.
It’s a flower thing.
Chill spring morning. Fog.
Perched in a leaf half spread
a small being, translucent green
with sparks of gold
and eyes bright red. It seems
as fresh born as the leaf
it spent the cool dark within.
Its front knees are tall and edged,
ears are in the apex of the joint.
All six legs raise high knees.
I think this is a leafwing child,
wingless in a leaf,
waiting for the sun to warm the fog
away and warm its translucent green
toward agility and leaping far from
any jaws that might find it juicy green.
The young are favorite prey for every predator, and often beautiful. I think this may be an early instar of a katydid, whose formal name means leafwing. Whatever its name, I wish for it prodigious leaps away from danger.
I am gifted by wind that pushes
rising and collapsing waves until
all the surface algae chased peak and trough
to find itself this cove of calm
where grow patterns drawn in greens
with curving boundaries of foam.
East, a dark green curves its alga filaments
like a woman’s hair painted on green grass
she lies upon. In the center foam
cuts green into a geography of islands
split by white straits. To the West a watershed
from Landsat sweeps scale away
and pulls my eyes far up.
The land’s gone dry enough
that fields and wetlands burn.
Sandhill cranes flew long to reach
nesthome and stalk slow through ash.
Lost with green from the rootedge
are snails that mothers crave
to keep eggs strong. In a month
all will green and flow with wind
and grasshoppers, if the rains do come,
but for now she wants snails,
cool and sinuous as promises of rain.
Carapace high domed,
that prehistoric bump behind the eyes.
To reach his size, he’s my age.
Even old he still mates, still grows,
this lovely turtle we call Blanding’s.
That yellow underneck seems
extravagant for northern climes.
He attends to risk,
his bulged eye tracks me as I walk.
The painted turtle up-log keeps me
in its eye, but decides to stay dry.
The mallard drake behind the turtles
huffs into the water and churns off,
spooked as the turtles are not,
but then he’s young.
Male Blanding’s turtles grow larger than females, and some live beyond 77 years. Turtles are truly the ancients of the ponds.
Black hornets with white faces are
the architects of mandibles
that scrape a bit of wood
from deadfalls and from splits,
pulping wood with spit for paper walls,
each blob dabbed on and spread,
following lines etched into wasp neurons
when the continents were still joined
before the dinosaurs.
Such shapes these hornets make
my fingers yearn to follow--
if no one’s home.
Paper tunnels wander up the face
of the great cone that is the hive,
where inside, a thousand birth cells
present gray hexagons as evidence of births
of the thousand baldfaced hornet architects
that flew out for food and wood for paper,
all daughters of one queen, dead now with her daughters,
in the hornets’ way. But the hive
made and mated new young queens,
who have wakened from their winter sleep,
and even now scrape bits of wood with mandibles
to pulp with spit and build birth cells of fine paper
where they will lay the eggs of daughters
who will complete this summer’s hives.
On a perfect spring day two perfect
bluewinged teal rest
just above the mirror sky
imaged in a pond. Breeze
stirs the mirror, zigzags trees,
recapitulates the history of art
while the mated teal
tuck into warm sunlight
as if they know
Spring is not eternal.
I cherish the distortions of reflections in the famous collaboration of water and wind. They teach.
From the center she feels every touch.
Little orbweaver recreates the circle every night,
and every night eats the threads of yesterday.
Say we do the same, or should.
Orbweaver knows the grace of tension
perfectly applied to keep the circle whole.
Her goal is not ease. It is simple:
Make the circle. Keep it whole.
It is no accident that the ancients conceived the Fates and Norns as spinners of the threads of life on this orb. Metaphor has power only to the extent that it is true.
FYI: web spiders do eat their used webs; recycling rules.
Downed wood smolders
grayblue for what has died,
but behind it and before it
there is green.
Where cattails burned and exposed
I watch a dragonfly
glint green, glint blue,
cross and recross each water, curve
down her ovipositor into a question,
and each time drop an egg for answer.
Without disasters, small chance to practice resurgence.
A golden bee fulfilled,
so busy in the wild plum
its wings blur
even as it alights for pollen.
Such pure delight
beings doing entirely
what they should,
no speck of doubt.
for the pollinator,
nectar gladly tongued.
No nag of thought, just
sweet and buzz and be.
Pollination transcends flowers.
New-raised from soil
the little plant is tentative
as light behind mist.
Four monocot leaves
hug a red stem.
Between the top two leaves
hangs a creamy flower bell
on its own thin cream curve.
Translucent petals flare just enough
to catch woodland light already
dappled with unfolding leaves.
This little delicacy is sessile bellwort, cousin to the robust Merry Bells, a very different personality.
Does it matter what life leaves behind?
We may say, mostly to survivors,
or maybe to an eye
that catches beauty aged.
Intricate patterns, say,
in the little seedpod of a weed,
pits that held seed tubes
spiraled up a dry cone.
At pod’s base,
a few seed tubes still stay,
holding for the perfect wind.
Sometimes it gets funny,
this spring busyness of blooming,
these brief flowers bent on making more.
Say you tell the garden tale of birds and bees again:
You come across a Trillium grandiflorum after
being tumbled by the bees—golden pollen
sprinkles pure white petals three, the female part
has split in three, the passage to the ovary,
the pollen-bearing anthers loll quiescent
except one that stands with attitude, threads of pollen
jut to either side as if arms attached to tiny shoulders,
looking both bedraggled and electrified—you know—
stance curved like an Italian shrugs, as if
disclaiming fault or saying such is life.
It is too absurd, and you are cracking up, glad
no grandchild is here to inquire of this mute
evidence that sex is both odd and at times, hilarious.
Beaver surges into air
with pondweed in her mouth.
Down she dove and found
spring shoots of waterlily white
and lilypads ascending
rolled in double tubes.
Her kits are weaned, and for now
eat tenderly of salad
fresh from mother’s mouth.
They will learn soon enough of oak.
We mammals do soften with our young.
When the wild cherries bloom
they fill their cups with nectar
free for any sipping tongue.
Ants know they are deserving
of all sweets Earth gives, and know
if a worker is willing to walk, she
needs no wings, but does
need six legs and strong.
This black ant has been imbibing
up and down this flowered boughs
all morning. Every part of her
is pollen-dusted gold, antennae
to her shiny rump. I watch her
near the final flower on this bough,
palp once the nectar bowl ,
pause a moment, and dive
headfirst into fullfillment found.
The way to an ant’s heart is through her tasters,
some on her antenae, some upon her tongue.
The pileated woodpecker does not
peck wood, he shatters wood to splinters
cluttered at tree base.
He listens for ants chewing
in their galleries, eyes fixed as the chicks’ eyes
waiting in another tree, their cries with him,
then hews the old tree hard again, talons dug
deep, tail bracing the three-point stance.
Ants: he buries his head in the hole,
barbed tongue races into galleries,
traps ants with sticky spit and hooks,
retracts and swallows lickety split
until his belly is full enough
to round the stomachs of his chicks.
If the pileated’s eyes were human, I would not meet them.
I’d look down and step away from their pure intensity.
Spring goslings. Spring winds
stand lilypads on edge
and stretch the large paddles
of the parents, who still have
seven alive when many pairs
are down to one or none.
Eagle falls through day,
raccoon hands pat night’s nest
Young geese learn to parent
in time, year by year, until
they too may shepherd seven
through Spring’s windy chop.
Birdsong, orange flash,
at each quick perch
as the little warbler
warms his nest oak.
Redstart he is called, name
abrupt as wingflash orange on black
against bark and leaf.
I try to catch him in my lens
as he captures mine, but
he rounds the whole wide green
before he finds a quiet
on a bright branch.
An honor to meet this bird just up from Mexico or farther south. A benison to have a warbler sit still just long enough.
A nesting pair of egrets rest
unconscious of the beauty
other eyes may see. They
wear still some nuptial plumes,
their white pure
as the new green grass
sprung to sunlight
out of spring-burned meadows.
Encounters with the great birds
seem strangely inevitable
and true as Keats would own.
To behold Earth’s weaving
balances me, to see these fishers
from deep time who’ve stood
black-legged on new green
ten million springs.
May their wetlands increase.
She is lovely like a dinosaur,
unlikely as a stegosaur
off to lay her eggs.
How she rises on her legs
unlike her plastron dragging kind
and hikes along to leave me behind
And find good sand.
Her lineage is long as her
crenallated tail, which dragged
before the heavy stepping sauropods.
Her shell clear, she is young,
and off to dig a nest and lay.
Man, get out of the way.
Doggerel lurks within the best of us, and in me. Forgive.