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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
June 2001



Before dawn, as cats
soft-foot it across my chest,
barred owl cries out, not
the five beat hoot, but
the long strange on-glide
shaped like a whinny.
Always goosebumps: how
soft the maker, and how fierce.


The thing that goes bump in the night is sometimes my skin. Owls have always been eerie and magical magnificent predators, as alive in folklore as in the night. I enjoy the shapes sounds make, especially in the dark.



Downy woodpeckers look worn
about the breast from climbing
in and out the beak-carved treetrunk hole
to feed squalling chicks with mouths agape,
almost naked yet, but downy soon.


Cavity nesters all wear down breast feathers in hundreds of round trips a day to feed their nestlings. "Careworn" is a rich word. "Round trip" is a fine phrase that contains the circles of life while suggesting the completion, the wholeness felt when we procreate. No one warned us we'd be so worn.



From the soil I lift a plant that dangles
from its roots the mesh of white threads
that connect this plant to the others in this bed,
to living soil, the mesh of mutual growth
that rewards this plant with minerals and gives
the fungus food from starlight.
I am abashed, in my enormous clumsy mammal way,
I've wrecked this portion of the web, but maybe
that's our job, to keep the system on its toes:
pure dumb rationalization, I know, I know,
but Gaia knows, it only was a weed.


What a tangled web we do unweave, when first we practice beds to weed. In truth, I did feel like a macro-life lout disrupting this delicate symbiosis of fungus and flowering plant. Actually, this symbiosis is anything but delicate: it's tough, resilient and very old. We cannot live without killing, of course, but it's easy to overestimate our individual impact. Too much self-satisfying guilt and we'll all become 'grieving greenies.'*

* 'Grieving greenies' is Theodore Roszak's term for those in the environmental movement who get off on guilt.

FYI: 95% of flowering plants thrive only within the symbiotic association know as mycorrhizae ("fungus roots"). This association has co-evolved since life invented seeds, and is a dominant aspect of life on land.



This morning each crow
is chased by a blackbird
who knows crow from way back,
knows that blackbird eggs
addicted crow once long ago.

On the pond two green herons
chase each other round and round,
urgent, swift, wingtips cutting mist
above the pond each knows he owns.


Chasing each other off and around preoccupies the large cousins, especially mammals, birds and fish. We share the oldest motives and act them out in chasing. Now the sports page honors stock car racing! We seem to be unique only in our ability to make the larger noise.



Sun-columns fall
through holes in tall clouds
as sun drops west.
Barn swallows skip bronze breasts
across this rare light.


The qualities of light are infinite. In this part of earth, summer sees cumulus piled in the sky like mountains, and where turbulence parts them, wide shafts of light fall on fields and woods. Such light has a poignance, especially in late afternoon, as I saw it yesterday. As the sun reddens toward setting, so does its light. Go outdoors in late afternoon and write of this light, or write of it spilling gold through west windows.