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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
June 2003



Broadwinged hawk
skreels Eeeee atop a red oak
as the deck is power-washed.
He leaps and flies tight circles
of screams
wide as his broadband tail
wide as spread feather tips
as if he finds
our notion of power


I should not attribute human motives to a hawk, but there it is. Sometimes it is just so apropos. I should just enjoy the smile he gave me, that still lingers.



Warm morning.
A long log of basking painted turtles.
A green heron lands on the knob end
where there's room. Gray green back,
rust breast, long-toed yellow feet which
proceed to walk the log's length—each
foot placed squarely in the center
of each dark turtle shell—each step
reveals a pace of log behind as turtles
slide into the pond.
The heron reaches the end,
unfolds his neck, looks
back down the length of satisfied log,
stretches himself to sky,
flies back to the branch from where
he dives for fish and frogs.


Asserting self is universal. I delight in the territorial claim this heron makes so emphatically, yet not aggressively. Turtles know when they're outclassed.



Large twin fawns
play along the roadside,
dance in long grasses.
Their tails unflagged
are edged with black.
Traffic watches them,
sequentially delights in them,
but each driver prays,
Please, don't try to cross.


All of us madly headed for the holiness of our homes are in familiar danger. All we know for sure is that we don't want to kill the fawns.



The family of giant Canada geese
were two, but now
fill my eyes as nine.
Huge pair, seven goslings
mallard-size and barely gold, true
plumage burrowing out from down.

They all cluster on the pond,
beaks gobbling the green
duckweed that feeds pondlife.
Their feast opens channels in dark water
which become a calligraphy
that swims in wind, curious
scripts curved as desert dunes,
meanings elusive as the mysteries
of mating, egg and birth.


We are the creature that seeks and assigns meanings. I could watch these hints of words for hours, as once I watched ephemeral animals in clouds. When the geese have their fill, the currents of pond springs erase all channels and draw enormous duckweed circles. Once again, it all comes back to circles.



The colors of twilight
belie the name, for
they are rich with unspent
hues, all shades and attitudes
of green with black barks textured in.
Across the pond white trunks
of young dead birches
bright as life.


Slant last light into a day's stored warmth is like no other. This tween-light is directed but diffused.



Lightning plays behind wind-tossed trees
as thunder rolls from everywhere,
and through the thunder,
riding loud upon wind
wild singing of the frogs.


Such music of June nights, when approaching storm is a promise of wind enough to carry away flower petals, branches, hearts. The frogs singing loud praise are connoisseurs of coming rain.



A silhouette of new-fledged bird
chases its silhouetted mother
through oak branches
that all-angles net the dying sky.
Every time the fledgling catches up
it flutters wings, cries beak to beak
and every time the mother
flies to a new perch
halfway through the tree.
As the sky fades the chase
become dark, iconic:
"Time to find
your own bugs, child.
I've got eggs to lay."


We're all in the same boat. Many survive the abandonment; many don't. Songbirds often rush to raise two broods, even three, during the brief northern season.



Green as a Granny Smith,
an inchworm arrives down a self-spun silk,
glides steadily, then when I touch
spurts a silk yard. Now he loops down my arm,
advances his front, draws up his rear
to span ten hairpins to my hand.

Free leaves above, bird beaks below.
Why leave the birth-tree, little green?
Time for you to spin a silk cocoon,
time to dissolve and grow moth wings,
magic moth antennae, better eyes.
I may see you bye and bye,
flying loops in incandescent light.


It's the season for all the insect herbivores to eat their fill of green and grow until it's time to molt like grasshoppers or completely metamorphose like this inchworm.



The world-wise bluejay takes offense
at the flegling crow who clumsies
about the sky, so the jay screams and dives,
screams and dives to peck the flapping crow,
chases it from every branch it tries.
The jay will not rest until the new crow
has learned the rudiments of corvidae,
for this tough cousin love we see
only looks like simple cruelty.

The corvids are the extended family of crow: jays and magpies, jackdaws and rooks, all crows, and the raven king. They are perhaps the brightest birds and certainly the best at flight. But they are loudmouths, and according to hawks, bullies and sneaks. This jay is doing its best to initiate the new crow into the ways of this world it hatched into.



All the young songbirds
fledged, flown from the nest.
They perch on feeders sonsy and sleek:
Streaked aprons of rose-breasted grosbeaks
suffused with sungold;
their crowns haloed white.
Miss Cardinal's bright coral beak,
her feathers in prelude blushed;
Song sparrow markings wet-paint
exquisite black and red-brown on white,
startled eyebrows; Indigo bunting young
dun but natty as mother.


First broods have flown for many species. Second nesting has begun. A few kinds, such as cardinals, produce three broods some years. Some fledglings are, at first glance, plain, but on the second they fairly burst with eagerness and new.



Blue and yellow butterflies are about
to leap off their stems or perhaps
remain blue-flag iris,
content to dance attached.
It's up to the observing eye.


How the flowers fool the vision and flutter our perceptions!



Here we call it Yellow Flag,
this golden iris of the rivers of France and Flanders.
Once the fleur de lis, of the river Lys
and of the throne, it is more elegant far
than any king or heraldry. Pure gold and tall
now it lifts among green swords
above the wetlands it commands.


Some centuries down the backalong, lilies and iris were considered one, so the fleur de lis, usually thought a lily, was not. But royal this flower surely is.



Miles off in starless sky,
fortress clouds begin to hurl
water drops high
and high, cooling, falling,
hurtling blindly high, falling
while potential grows
for hot light to streak sky
and split it until very air
claps applause like gods.

Here it's June night.
Air's dropped dead still.
Fireflies blink down
in the grasses and high
in sultry air, light without heat
that must find applause
in the chemistry of compulsion.

The great engine of Sol drives
it all, life-chain, mate light, wind
that carries June night storm that
rumbles now and blinks whole skies.


Such a strange lush time is now, sprawled green growth pushing out seed, myriads of bugs grazing, crowding windows, moths blundering in yellow light, thundered downpours. The sum is deep, alive and as sweatily compelling as the lure of lightning bugs.



Ox-eye daisy dances now
the north sides of the roads.
She brightens our eyes with her own.
Europe's romantics brought her long ago,
for without her hundred petals
waiting to be disrobed,
how could a body know
if he loves her, yes or no.


Farmers find the ox-eye noxious for it competes too well with pasture grass. Perhaps they should invite all the lovelorn lads and lasses to come pluck the daisies from their fields, and cast secret smiles when the answer's "Love's me," and wounded glances when it's "Not."



Two cats test their wit
with a mossy snapping turtle
who withdraws from their attentions.
Head pulls in, legs tuck up.
Claws remain available.
One young cat
stretches his nose
toward the turtle's beak.
But she's mellow,
her eggs are laid.
The nose is volunteered.
My heart leaps, voice shouts.
The cat is safe, points out
he just had to take a whiff,
and sniffs at my
humane stupidity.


Snappers are irascible, don't take to teasing. Cats are curious. A potent cocktail. That snapper beak can bite through a two inch stick. but happily, cats know everything already. Teenagers!



On the lip of the blue petal
the small crab spider waits.
It has become the yellow
of the iris throat,
yet it waits
on the lip of the blue petal,
front legs spread wide
to embrace the bee and bite,
hold tight as it weakens,
and finally feast.
It does not imagine as it waits
without thought, without hope,
boredom, without fatigue.
It holds its legs straight out
all the long sun,
lowers them only to dark.
Why in day is it yellow on blue
when two inches down the throat
it could be invisible to bees,
who see color as well as we
who have thought, have hope,
lack patience,
who fill our minds with "Why?"


"Monkey curiosity," the shared attribute of primates, is claimed as one reason for our dominance. I suspect that it has as much to do with always being amorous. But Emerson claimed, “Were I to hold the truth in my hand, I would let it go for the positive joy of seeking.”



Teenage rascal blue jays,
cardinals boy and girl finally
able to ungape,
rosebreasts fresh from nest,
song sparrow sprites, doves,
phoebes, huge goslings,
spotbreast robins, and Ah,
tailed barn swallows, all
sprightly in their dance
launched from an earth new
at the base of ocean sky.
Young birds learn now to
swim up and play
as we featherless
hoist our feet against
the grave force that locks us down.
Fledglings are naiads of the ocean air,
these sprightly youths who
like our own lithe young
spring our steps a moment
and let our spirits swim the sky.


"Sprightly" is a lovely word, rooted with "esprit," "sprite," and "spirit." If there are elves among us, they are surely summer's new-fledged birds. The biosphere includes the atmosphere, pulled to the planet by gravity just as our root-footed selves.