Baneberry flowers lift above its leaves,
eager for pollinators to sip from creamy cups,
and come they will, to midwife other life
so it can bear red berries for deer and red squirrel,
Vole and whitefoot mouse. Birds and chipmunk
return the favor, plant the seeds,
drop them casually or bury them with care
to cache for later food.
We midwife nothing here—for us the bane.
The red berries stop our hearts.
The great vulture revels
quietly in light,
a dead pine for perch.
It loves its life, it loves
its soaring flight,
but cannot sing of it,
its throat holds no syrinx.
Goatleg Pan gives no pipes
to one who feeds on death.
So the bird without a song
makes a daily music of its flight
as sun warms the terrain--
long spirals up the thermals, wings
stretched still in a sustained requiem.
The turkey vulture’s Latin name is Cathartes aura. Cathartes means “purifier,” which nicely sums up the ecological role of this vital scavenger.
It’s the little beings hiding
from my eyes that entice,
sights I could not see
but through a lens.
A shot of two distant turtles
on a log, enlarged,
proves that two equals five,
the odd math of extended eyes.
However we look at whatever,
there is ever more to see,
an infinity of surprise.
Nature is infinite synergy; all is more than we can know.
On turtlehead leaves, a brilliance catches me,
bright orange with spikes and shiny black.
The perfect caterpillar is grown, full fat.
Like all but our kind of life it does not
yearn to be loved. It has its leaves.
Now the chrysalis, soon the butterfly
that will yearn for nectar more than the mating
that will take it by surprise, if a checkerspot
can be surprised, like my eyes caught in its beauty
and wishing it could feel my love.
Again the wild geranium, again the bee
enticed by nectar pooling in the chalice,
again the pollen sprinkled
up and down bee fur
to travel to another wild geranium
so a pollen tube can arrow
through the stigma to the ovary
so again the sperm can find completion
and the flower spend its seeds.
The magic is alive and in us all
mutually married and feeding each to each,
drinking from Earth’s chalice
then and now and when.
After windstorm, rain, and sawing up a dropped tree,
a wild cherry begins to bloom in shade.
Drops of water on buds bloom into mirrors,
curve the world topsy-turvy as windstorm.
The mirrors are made of light gathered from
under dark cloud, and this cherry has been here
before—it knows its buds will open to give
nectar to biddable bees, and in time offer
cherries to biddable migrating birds,
and this curving of season around sun
turns the world right side up.
Madrone bark enlists lichen
to feast the human eye.
These two meet
in the habits of curl
and color complement.
Both cherish change.
in strong sunlight.
with the wheel
of Earth about its star.
Muskrat kits play tag
in water drenched with sun.
So glad they are of water without ice
they madly chase through cattails
to tag the sib’s rump ‘It’,
dive to get away like
human kits avoid a ducking,
speaking of which, two mallards
watch these young bright-eyes cavort,
turn their heads and paddle
toward cattails calm.
A little marbled orb weaver billows
in the center of her web
as strong winds test her making.
She rides her silk as wind shapes a bowl
now convex, now concave.
After sunset when winds slack,
night insects may fly into her trap.
Tomorrow she will eat her strong silks,
take them back in and find
a more calm place to spiral out
her threads again, certain
of one thing only, that she
is at the center of the weaving.
Great Egret lands, and redwing attacks
this pure predator with a taste
for eggs and nestlings.
Size matters not.
How sharp your beak-
How well you fly and dart-
Not how loud you squawk-
Not how wide your angel wings-
Not how long your golden beak-
You will not gulp redwings.
Long before wildflowers,
conifers led spring into color
with soft red cones
surrounded by needles.
The cones are intricate, female.
Each scale requires one pollen grain
to swirl to it on a pulse of wind.
Elder lovers still swept away.
On the windy upland prairie today
a calico pennant dragonfly
Gifts me with gold filagree.
Wing veins of gold on sable
hold still without alarm as I
go to my knees, inch close until
I can see spines on her dainty legs
that net caught flies
large enough to eat on perch,
choice morsels for a jeweled
darling of the sky.
Bug bits hang from Mama Redwing’s beak
as she flutter-hops from lily pad to pad.
Tucked into cattails at water’s edge
a grass bowl, where four wide beaks
with four red throats wait to be filled.
The moment is auspicious. Countless
water insects crawl up onto lily pads
to fulfill their shift into flight, where
Mama Redwing’s beak surprises them
into one brief flight to nest where
she will empty herself into red holes,
wipe bits from her beak on a cattail leaf
and fly back to her lily pads
to fulfill the mother’s roundelay.
The squash bug walks up a leaf
too thin to pierce for juice.
The bug is crusty brown and edged,
small red eyes, pocked exo-skin,
altogether unlovely until redeemed
by its antennae, long and red
with orange furred spearheads
that brightly seek the day
and make of it good sense.
A camera shutter races light.
Two Canada geese race a Ford pickup.
A Ford pickup races two Canada geese.
Nature races humanity.
Humanity pulls away.
Take your pick.
Place your bets.
Tendrils of two alfalfa plants reach out.
Each is fuzzed and thin and splits into
thread-fine tendrils which at the tips
curl into ringlets to catch whatever they touch.
The two tendrils touch and cling.
Threads spiral tight to secure the bond.
No likely wind will sever them.
They hold each other up to light.
Bright against dark water
the flowering of redtop grass.
Tall panicles reach high
to catch the pollinating breeze
and the whole sways like a choir.
The wild rose pleases not just human nose and eyes
but those as well of little flies, and tasters too.
Wild rose makes a fragrant nectar meal for all with wings
who can perch on petals or flutter-hover
close enough for searching tongues. Flies
please our eyes less than furry bees that we admire.
But flies are busy too as bees, toil until they die,
these nectar-sipping pollinating flower flies.
Mergansers parade across the pool,
eleven hungry ducklings paddle
hard behind a teaching mother.
Mergansers dive for fish
with serrated beaks hook-tipped—I wonder,
when a minnow school appears,
does the whole parade
upend and dive as one?
The flower spike of wild lupine
journeys in time.
Tight top buds--the elegance of form
color swells, buds separate and open
to butterfly tongues
as nectar pools secret in blue cradles.
From under the storm-dropped oak
white fungal fingers reach out.
I almost expect them to quiver in pain.
They do not. Close-up, no chewed fingernails,
no fingerprints, no rings or knuckles,
just bland yellow rounded tips.
Besides, what would fingers be doing
between the bark and wood?
Just as clearly, something does want out.