Morning Earth Poems
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This mimic has convincing yellow fur,
tufts on rump and back, a bit on middle thigh,
an outrageous goatee spill before
surmounted by two black ball-bearing eyes,
but its legs are the metal sheen of flies,
and the wings that refraction as of oil.
This is the robber fly with the gall to prey
on what it pretends to be—it eats bees.
I am ambushed
as ordinary wild vetch
unfolds its chain of flowers
just after drenching rains.
Small drops gleam sepal fur.
They waited for wet, and now
pendant buds ripen down the subtle row
from blush to red to final purple-blue.
Beauty is casual in the woods, or so it seems.
But flowers are life and death and continuation.
The ordinary once again proves extra-.
The tiny looper caterpillar signifies
all willingness to take me on, a feisty
ready-to-strike bend to show me
his sharp truelegs, his sickle jaws.
He comes from a neighborhood,
full of jays with snapping beaks.
He has to be this way. It often ends badly.
I decide not to take on this tough today,
I know he is a vegan putting on a show,
but it’s a great act, better than ever mine,
and I hope it works until he grows wings
and flies the dark when sharp beaks sleep.
Imagine how long it took this mime show to evolve. What predators would it dissuade? Some, apparently. The adaptive advantage must be small, yet if were not real and present, the pretend defense would not be in the caterpillar repertoire.
True Frog of the Woods is Rana sylvatica,
hard woods of leaps that crackle dropped leaves
of conifers around glacial lakes and muskeg
beyond the Arctic Circle, where
no other frog dares go. Woodfrogs
know cold beyond belief; They spend
the northern dark as blocks of brown ice
burrowed under brown leaves. No slow breath,
no beating heart, latticed ice everywhere
outside the cells, which have antifreeze.
This large matron today counts on camouflage
and still, but eyes are wide with gold,
heart trips, and hind leg nerves almost fire,
but she does not count on love, not that she should.
Willy Johnson and I with makeshift nets
and borrowed canning jars hunt frogs in spring
on the Mill Forty, where old lumber mill foundations
harbor pools in which frogs come to sing and drop
strings and globs of jelly eggs. At the cabin we have
green frogs, we have toads, we have no frogs
with robber masks and skin like a fawn—tonight,
in the flashlight circle I see the exotic near home,
fall in love with the wonder of it, and with the frog.
Lately some fresh PhD, pressed for publication, has had the gall to rename the true frogs. Rana sylvatica has become Lithobates sylvaticus. A pox on young taxonomists who think four syllables should trump two. They are messing with my loves. Ah well, few frogs can read.
Chandeliers were born eons ago.
One night after seeing wild columbine in bloom,
a Frenchman dreamed up candles pendant on stems.
That afternoon he walked unruly paths
with his little daughter. She ruled.
She proclaimed the columbine royal:
a red king’s crown on top, but
lower down a queen’s gold petticoats.
She giggled when she saw a bee enter.
Daddy thought of nectar,
and decided now was not the time.
The shieldbug’s armor is samurai
fit to break a Shogun’s walls.
His legs are thick and spined,
he looks designed--for war, or
what some confuse with war:
this shieldbug is a predator.
He seems new—gold veins
map a wing cover undried.
Good hunting in my garden, bug,
may your natal meal be rich.
She models for her child,
hunker down, lower your head,
be still as a reflection,
keep one eye wide for
the predator, don’t blink.
The gozling is old enough
to know this mime, it
has wakened in its mind
as neurons hook up
beyond Eat and Follow.
Such ways of wisdom
are the mystery, how
the knowing carried
in the mother enters eggs,
how it wakes Alert
and wakes Still, now, Hide.
This parent has already lost 5 or 6 of this year’s brood, and may be a first-time mother. But she knows exactly what to model to wake the camouflage within her gozling. The only polite thing to do is to get out of there, so I got.
All is contained
in the cabochon lens
of a raindrop on a frond of fern--
light and water, green.
Summer in the throat.
When the wild rose unfolds
we learn again what she knows:
keep the pollen safe in its circle,
so as the last petal lifts
and fragrance spreads,
golden pollen takes the light,
guards the ready center of the rose.
Flutterbys are flitting now,
Flora lifted to the sky.
Today it’s Admirals, Red and White,
brightly fresh from chrysali.
glory in their stripes
as these beguile me, even
though Carolus Linnaeus
couldn’t tell Red from Orange.
The poor man must not have
seen them sit and open
Orange/ Dun close/ open Orange.
I kneel in wild strawberries,
tongue and I amazed once more,
hurled into memory: how small
and how enlarging is
the wild strawberry.
At the lake: early morning, my sister and I
and Buck are out to pick
We walk gravel to an old logging trail
that curves off downhill into green
where grouse come to clover.
Buck ranges ahead, stops to
look back at dawdlers in dog dismay,
as low berries suddenly appear,
one ripe red seen and knelt to for plucking,
a whole patch swiftly visible
from knees as if scales
have dropped from enchanted eyes.
Our small hands ask no questions,
but pick fast and do not bestow
the berries to the berry can, but
find our fingers lifting to mouths.
Knees and lips stained red, we
surrender to the fruit
while it still holds mirror dew.
When Buck comes running back to see,
we are so far gone that all we care about
is to save the berries from his paws.
I shove myself up with my cane,
lick lips of old,
look down at my jeans to find
the red stains that lift
this turning of the spiral.
Mother wolf spider gathers her eggs
into a silken sphere
to carry everywhere,
but hungers now until they hatch.
will swarm upon her back
and be carried everywhere,
all bright spider-eyes and legs
entwined while mother hunts,
and after they swarm down off her back
to learn the tastes of prey.
Motherhood is everywhere a test of endurance.
The fluer de lis unfurls her flag
along the river Lys,
along marsh edges,
and here with me, a Queen
among a host of iris blades.
Soft as raindrop skin, her petals
cannot suffer touch.
Her nectar guide aims pollinators
directly to the sugar sought,
pollen on the way. She
puts first things first.
The yellow flag iris is the origin of the emblem of French Royalty. All the iris, regardless of origin—Japan, Europe, North America—bloom in June, in the Northern Hemisphere.
In night’s power a great wind
tore this nest from tree, and in caprice,
set it gently down upright on ground, empty
but for one eggshell and the breast curve
of the brooding nestweaver
who plucked these grasses one by one
and stripped these fibers from the bark
and from dried nettle stems,
before she sat and turned slowly
round and round to reify the form.
Always questions after storm,
rarely answers, only mysteries.
Were there nestlings in the nest?
Would knowing make a difference?
Some of the lessons Earth teaches are difficult.
Brave paintbrush sends now
for hoverflies and bumblebees
to clamber down true flower tubes
and on the journey out
brush the flagrant stigma
angled toward this hope
with the pollen of an other.
The pollination transaction is initiated by the flowers,
who have many ways to insure its success.
The great bell pulses,
pulls massed tentacles down
through plankton to catch
all the lives invisible
we do imagine
and all the lives we see
or think we do,
and know the jelly has no eyes.
But the Lion’s Mane does
know up from down,
and pulses upside down
into the deep and releases
all its gathered mane
to hunt by feel.
The most tender touch
will fire hooked harpoons of flame.
Whitecrown looks pert and pretty
perched upon breakwater rock,
parents both chirping steady now,
“Too close, too close!”
A nest of hatchling sparrows
hear their food-beaks chirp
and somewhere in a crevice
in this tangled rock, every chick
is all open beak, but parents can’t feed
until my threat walks away,
so I take a last photo
in that graceless shame
we feel now in our cousins’ gaze.
The waterlily shines through
her veil of cattail leaves,
sprinkled at her base
where her leaves swim close
to back her white with green.
Tips of golden anther spikes
rise just enough to tantalize.
Veils are worn sometimes
for modesty they say, but not today.
So often the treasures are almost hidden, but not quite.
A new staghorn sumac leaf
discovers symmetry in light.
Sharp chevrons march up the stem
like replicating crystal lattices,
each V a row of waking leaftips
aimed directly at sun, soon
to arch wind with green.
From one bilateral symetrical to another, welcome.
I watch an orange fly wash its hands.
It is tiny on a blackberry leaf, a jewel
redeemed from child years
and yearnings to then grasp the synonym
of motions of the fly and mine at washstand.
Why is this connection and how
does this slide me into Issa’s mind
about the time Bobby Burns wrote of his
“wee sleeket cowrin’ tim’rous beastie”
which is a mouse and not Issa’s fly that
“wrings its hands” like my tiny rainforest
fly of orange washing-up on a blackberry leaf
as Earth’s wholeness resonates so inside.
A day moth feeds on milkweed nectar.
It looks fresh from the cocoon, its orange
collar bright, its steely blue. Long feather
antenae never stop moving, as if reveling
in sensations the caterpillar never knew,
(it grew up chewing grass)
but who knows if memory persists in tastes?
I know the memory of these colors persists
inside the child eyes I wear again. We are
both reborn and glad of gifts from Earth.
This day-flying beauty is the Virginia Ctenucha moth. Drop that name at your next cocktail party. But do it early.
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