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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems,
June 2004



All the greens exult these
endless cloudburst days,
ferns thrilled so
with dark downpours they curl
and uncurl with the abandoned
delight they spiraled to in epochs lost.
Gold eyed toads, as old, bawl
all night the beauty of the ponds
while fern-green treefrogs
offer lovely long tremolos.
Old liverworts and mosses glow
green as Earth before flowers,
when spores were all,
and green ruled without pollen,
without deluding wasps and bees,
which weren’t yet abuzz.
Hail, Sporangia! Rain rules!


We’ve had 6 inches of downpour in four days, and we’re the lucky ones. Water-world is upon us—but it sure beats drought. This endless rain evokes rampant primeval growth long before flowers were invented.



Before dawn, as cats
soft-foot it across my chest,
hungry for the hunt,
barred owl cries out, not
the five beat hoot, but
the long strange on-glide
shaped like a horse’s 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. Enjoy the shapes sounds make, especially in the dark.



Cranesbill is in full face and flower.
These blossoms own the power of facing you,
looking, as only wild flowers do.
They are not bred to be compliant,
like their garden cousins. They lift
from dark and green and stare
most bold. I feel them at it, and spin quick,
look to catch them staring, and they rarely
even look away—they catch me then,
these bright five-petal faces, dare me
deep and under hill, dissolve me
in their beauty and their lifting
lilting faces, set me free, lifted high
above the shadow under green.


Cranesbill, aka wild geranium ,glories every local woodland now, in all the subtle shades of pink. Spent, the petals fall to blue.




For Carrie and Owen

Downy woodpeckers look worn
about the breast from climbing
in and out the beak-carved treetrunk hole,
round trip from bug-bark to nest
to feed chicks squalling with mouths agape,
only pinfeathered 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.



Swimming swift across the pond,
parting duckweed green,
some creature new and undulant.
Not muskrat, not mink
Pond Nessie. Large head
tapers to long unbroken tail.
Mind catches up to eyes and laughs--
Seven ducklings swim so fast
and tight against their mother that
there is no light between,
no chivvying from Mom, just fast
paddling feet, somehow keeping up and tight,
as if number eight had been just pulled down
by a snapping turtle’s jaws.


Young lives are in constant peril everywhere. Our joy in them is always tempered with shadow. So many predators specialize in the young. We all are eaters and eaten.



From soil’s crucible they rise,
these tender moons, these fruits
of dark that break death down
to grow fruits strange as the pull
of moon upon the blood, as dunes
of tide roll unseen around the salty
yearning ocean Earth
that hears from dry lands the howls
of wolves and women to the Moon
who owns no man upon her face.



Pollen offers itself endlessly
at the circle’s center,
wafts sweet scent to all the tiny
fliers wearing golden jodhpurs,
and they do come
until the act again is done
as it has always been since
the first flowers seduced
the first tiny flying insects and turned
them into wasps. The magic
worked! Pollen spread and bred!
Now the earth is all on flower,
grass, trees, oxeye daisy,
tiered pagoda dogwood eager
to make berries for the birds,
berries blue on deep red stems,
to carry south in their migration,
each blue dropping
sailing down night sky
to plant a dogwood seed
neatly acid-etched
so it can germinate to make
in time more pollen for the tiny fliers
and make more berries for the fliers
carried south on feather strokes.


Lives are all so intertwined there is no way to separate the dancers from the dance. Plants make animals possible, and now, animals make plants possible. Yet in our arrogance we do not believe these others possible as we are possible. Pollen is true gold.


Sun-columns fall
through holes in towered clouds
as sun drops west.
Across this light
barn swallows skip bronze breasts.


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.



It is a trick of light and shimmer,
this orb-weaver’s web,
here an instant, gone in a slip of eye.
This little spider gardens air
in the stems of grasses, prays
for tiny fliers to cast themselves
upon her net, spiraled in the dark from
the substance of the weaver, twice
spun, first dry to test the pattern, second
spun adhesive as she eats the test.
It is a spiral trick of light and mirrors
the essential shape of life
passed to her down the ages
in her double-twisted DNA.


Spirals are a central mystery we climb. From the cowlick in a child’s hair to a spiral galaxy, the shape is everywhere, iterated some 50 trillion times within your cells.


Night music now is wild with toads
and tree frogs, timpanied by thunder rolls.
Fireflies blink, forlorn.
So June nights prepare us
for Midwest sultry darks when
insects file and rasp chitinous love
while bats grow mosquito fat,
and our sweat pouts, decides to stay home.

It’s Monday truth.



Across unstinting blue
cumulus clouds
cascade pure June


Perfect June days have no peer. Some summers seem filled with cumulus, hinting ever of the familiar, continually becoming other. It’s as if the anima of all beings inhabit clouds, bending their appearance this way and that. After all, clouds and animals are transformations of water.



I lie in bed, eyes wide and hearing
growls float through warm dark from the deck below.
Big growls with resonance from meaty lungs.
Now the bang of birdseed cans tossed about
so bungee cords will give up their lids.
Rise and stumble down the stairs,
spotlight in hand, “Doesn’t sound like dog,
but do raccoons growl?”
Open the door on pure surprise.
In the spotlight four big eyes, two
hulking black-furred bodies that swallow light.
Bears! They wish no confrontation
with what’s behind the light. One shies down the stairs
and a little up the path, the other presents his rear,
cranes his neck and looks directly at the light.
I holler something loud. The bear cares not.
His nose is mobile, lifts and tries
to sort me from the night.
When I go inside to watch through windows,
he stands up six feet tall and pulls
the feeder down, seeds ascatter everywhere,
both bears now snuffling seeds with loose lips
and prehensile nose. I go out to rescue
birdseed cans, carry them inside, lock the door.
The bears are quiet, just now and then a quiet croon.


Country living is a continual surprise. These were two young sibling bears, maybe 150 pounds each. They have incredible noses, can smell a garbage can a quarter mile. But my, bears are bulky animals. So for a time we stop feeding birds (repairs will take awhile) and take the garbage can into the garage at night. In all, quite a rush.


On the roadside lies an egg,
large, dried-hay gold and whole,
sun warmed, one end a narrow cone,
the other wide and round.
During last night's rain it slipped from
some hungry beak or paw and fell
on this wet indented sand,
cushioned by water
sheeting off the road.
Now it's heavy and warm.
I cup it. Uncracked. Whole.
Is there life inside?
And if so, what then?


There is nothing like an egg to wake the child. Every hungry predator loves eggs. So often, when Earth lessons us, we feel helpless. But every life must eat, and every life is finally food, which is an Earthwide sacrament of sharing.



From the News:

In Bulgaria dancing bears are now bought from
street gypsies and retired to a refuge,
courtesy of Brigette Bardot.
After teeth are torn out with pliers, sloth bears of India
dance for coins. In Uttar Pradesh,
they now have refuge too. But no false teeth.

Out of his secular mind, a DNR biologist
today proclaimed for a reporter, “Bears
are walking stomachs,” as if
he were not, as if you and I did not walk and eat
whenever we can. We are omnivores,
we humans, we bears. We are sudden.
When something triggers our jaws, we bite.
All beings hunger;

We are hungry for the bear
who lives inside our mythic minds,
the shambling form who lifts out of dark
to stand and roar. Ponderous walker more
slap-footed than man, the fur that swallows light,
he who walks like a man, but hugs more terribly.
Beorn, warrior, old snuffler of termite and ant,
honey-lover, licker of grubs torn from old logs,
berry-stripper, swallower of ova and acorns
who stands and bellies up to fruit trees
and walks them down to ground.
The Bear I dream asks me,
“Don’t you remember what you gave me last time?”
At the state fair, for the DNR,
my son for years was Smokey the Bear.

We carry the cave bear in our sacred minds,
in there with the dark passages of birth.
Bear stood tall and marked us with his claws
for all time. He reminds us when he grooves
tree bark eight feet up. Once,
where he grooved the cave walls
we bowed before bear, before
we named him nuisance, before we
despised the animals who live inside us,
before we lost touch with the animals
moving in our oldest minds.
Go caving. They are there.


Grasses are in swaying bloom,
Pollinating wind, swelling grains
that built the neolithic on the steppes,
that introduced the granary
with mouse and rat, so eventually cat,
that fed us through the dry and hot
in the fertile crescent, that fed with spelt
the shepherd in his mountain fold,
that gave Sandburg his surcease
for Flanders’ graves: I am the grass,
I cover all.

But no grass grows beneath
tank treads in the fertile crescent now,
where we’ve introduced the granary
so bare that mouse and rat have fled,
and cat is hide and ribs in old Iraq

And the beauty of the grasses
as they offer up their grains
to the happy mandibles of insects
and the busy jaws of mouse and meadow vole,
reminds us of the prairies lost
in histories of plowshares
that kept being swords. There is no
surcease of grief for buffalo
or wetlands loud with waterfowl,
wetlands that now drained and dried
and plowed in this our autumn,
blow across the continent in blizzard;
we measure topsoil loss by bands
of black in fallen snow. “I am the grass,
I cover roadside ditches. But a bit
of my stored seed will always sprout from
granaries of small animals
and enchant the roadsides with my beauty,
and tremble in the wind of passing cars.


Sometimes we know and remember too much.



All this spring rain has thrilled the Kingdom Third:
every toadstool, every bracket, every turkey-tail
upon a fallen log, every symbiote that weaves
wet threads through soil and feeds plant roots
thrilled and fruiting, but some fruiting bodies
are too uncanny for belief.

Ten white fingers reach up from a split
in a fallen log, each has knobby knuckles,
corpse-white skin, and faintly yellow fingertips
without nails. No thumbs. The fingers strive up
like the hand of a climber who just crests
the top edge of a cliff and has not yet clutched down
for the pull up, or as if some thing struggles
to be released, to be born.

What is this trapped within this rotting log?
Is it truly log, or is it semblance of a log?
Are these the fingers of a visitor
who fell to Earth, who tries now to find flesh again,
unnerving though it be to see?
Or are these the relict fingers
of a wood nymph out of sacred time,
unlovely as the dugong to the mermaid.
Shall I stay to watch?
The mosquito cloud grows thick.
I hike on up the woodland trail.
On the way back, I stop to look.
The white fingers seem a trifle longer.
Could they be candy skeleton fingers
misplaced from Dia de Los Muertos?
I’ll check back tomorrow. Maybe taste.
If you don’t hear from me
see if they’ve found my camera.


Sometimes Mother Nature’s quite like a Roger Corman film, but with more convincing special effects.



Already Canada elder is in berry,
the red that tempts mammals and tempts birds.
Elder says that either kin will do,
so long as they are mobile, cardinal or bear,
so long as they have acid in their guts
to etch the seeds enough to germinate,
so long as they are left somewhere
away from Mum, in a slop or pile of fertile
leftovers—procreation’s always wet--
and seedlings must disperse or live
shadow lives wan and pale.
“Prithee, what can ail thee?”
“Mum casts shadows large
and all-embraced.”
Few fruits ripen yet, at solstice. Most
time the ripening for traveling birds
and mammals building flesh for sleep.

Yestereve, the fire in these small berries
burned all across the land of Cornwall,
Britain’s jewel, where far down the backalong,
the old ones raised Men Gurta, Stone of Waiting
on the high St. Breock Downs, and burned there
solstice offerings, where still, 4,000 spins
round sun down time, the Cornish come together
to dance to whistles cut from
hollowed elderberry stems, and to
burn the great bone fires that speak again
of the summer-quickened fruitful life of Earth,
and of the fire leaping up the roots
of every plant to spark its fruit.


The whitetail deer has been
watching me walk down the road.
The instant our eyes touch
she wheels on her hind legs
and dances into trees,
white flag vanishing.


Eye-contact decides much among the furry kinds. I treasure such moments beyond my species, even when the cousins flee. Are they not wise?



Three baby purple pinecones
grow from a pine branch tip, whorled
with needles as if growing from
a green long-spined sea urchin.
These three girl cones will grow
two summers through
before their seed matures
and hard scales open
to release winged seed
to fly upon strong air.
It started when soft breeze
lifted pollen from clustered
spring male cones and dropped it on
three little purple nubs of female cones
where the pollen grew its tubes
and quickened seeds.


The more diverse lives are, the more they are alike and beautiful.


The yellow-throated warbler
flies from oaks to tall ripe grasses.
He forages for insects halfway down
strong stalks, always moving, hopping
stem to stem. His hunt is visible
in the tossing of grasses.
He begins to sing, brief bursts of song
that double a rich melody and pause.
Each time his throat opens, panicles
of grass seed above him tremble
in the rhythms of his song.


Be careful when you stop and look at Earth, for you may be ambushed by delight.



My eye loses the barn swallow
as he skims fields
fresh-cut and fragrant. But
I discover him as he lifts above
horizon into white-cloud sky,
russet breast, sharp twin tails.
He breaks off the hunt to arrow
to feed two fledglings
huddled on a branch in a small
dead elm. They are fresh from
the mouth-smooth nest,
in juvenile raggedy feathers.
One stretches its left wing, not out
but back, as if rolling a shoulder.
The wingtip is already sharp.
Dad quick-beats off, grazes
pale stalks of a just-cut field,
lifts across cattails.
He is flight’s dreamer—the master
who courses, rolls, jinks, impossibly darts
to catch the agile invisible fliers
who created his skill,
who created barn swallow.


Wolves made the deer a fine runner, which no doubt lengthened wolf legs and stamina over thousands of years. This reciprocity is co-evolution, in which the participants literally create each other. The swallow and the fly, the flower and the bee. Elegant beauty is the system’s emergent property.