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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
July 2002



Mosquitoes swirl in sunbeams
falling from the west
in columns wide.
These girls are young
and out for blood, but
they dance prettily
as dust motes in pensive rooms.


To paraphrase Forrest Gump's mama, beauty is as beauty does.



Green heron in the pond
is spearing green frogs
whose heads mound green duckweed
when they rise to breathe
and make green heron's day.

The green frog breeds late, a ker-plunker right now of deep notes, for all the world like someone idly plucking a stand-up bass. I've watched a barred owl skim the pond for hours, using its talons to stun and carry off the frog. If you see an owl with a wet breast and a bit of duckweed, you'll know.



Her shell's moss still water-dark,
she is green-black
save for yellow
on the insides of her legs
toward the plastron.

She's come to dig a hole
with strong and stubborn legs.
The thick scales of her knees
flex out as she walks
her articulated armor from
the bottom of the pond
to nose the length of my garage door.

She's come to lay soft eggs
in sand sunwarmed
in a place raccoons won't find.

Her feet all reptile knuckles,
as she folds them large scales flare,
her long claws flex,
her alligator tail scuffs behind

As she comes near I see one
long strand of waterweed stuck to her shell.
Her eyes swivel to track my
movements on the deck
where she now heads.

Close up, her eyes are orange-spoked
wheels around the pupil
which almost spin as
she introduces me to time.


When a mossback snapping turtle travels, she moves with the absolute authority of a female who has always been here, as if she were an avatar of the Goddess.



The raw gape of the new-fledged crow
is the color of dawn sunfire, is
itself the fire translated
into feathers black
fluttered on the wings,
and loud groans and caws
from below the great black
gaping beak open to the maw of red
that burns so with its hunger.


Ah, the transformations. Sunlight through air to seed to egg to gaping crow, and finally to air again. All is mutable; all is process; all transforms: eating, growing, becoming again and again is what being is about.



On stalks of little bluestem,
a foot below the seed, hang large
hawker dragonflies whose wings
run half-black, half-clear.
They watch, zoom to catch flies,
return to vertical on the same stem, stiff
halftone wings like spread bats
sprinkled on grass stems through the field.

Roadside grasses nod
panicles of gold and tan,
timothy in cylinders of gray, all
stirred from below by leaping
grasshopper nymphs perfect
in fresh skeletons.

Mullein spears
are crowned with dragonflies
whose four still wings
are black, thistle blue, mica.
They sit flat and watch
with geodesic eyes.


In these hot and humid dragonfly days, every pond is edged with plants hung with husks left by emerging dragons and damsels, all transformed in changing lovely colors, all with vast new eyes. These predators, this heat, evoke immense carboniferous swamps of giant horsetails and tree ferns which captured the sunlight our culture lives on.



Overwhelmed with green and growth
I taste this time like honey in the throat.
Summer swells so lush—
Green rushes toward the sun.
Cast a bean, tomorrow it twines root and leaves.
It's hot.
Let Jack climb,
I will sit and fear the Goddess here.


I am quite overwhelmed by Earth’s fecundity.



Myriad tiny dun-winged flies
rush into tunnels they've eaten and out
in lines precise as ant trails.
I sit down beside it on the deck.
to look close at this third day scat of raccoon.
A great sulfur-haired fly digs in,
a rotund black beetle casts about
and settles in near undigested seeds
now acid-etched enough to sprout.


In our interliving, everything is food. Berries co-evolved with the sweet tooth of birds and mammals. We cousins disperse the plants, but we are doubly useful, for most hard seeded small fruits cannot germinate without passing through someone's gut. Makes you wonder who's in charge here.



For the Cornish

You've seen them,
these saffron-winged meadowhawks,
those small dragonflies with orange or red tails
that are everywhere now.
Yesterday, late sun slanting,
one swooped the road,
caught light next to me,
and saffron burned
in a flash of mica wings.


Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, has long been a necessity in pasties in Cornwall, one of the poorest places in the world. But of course it is also the most rich. How lovely that some entomologist in the backalong should name a dragonfly the saffron-winged meadowhawk.



Two great crested flycatchers
at amorous play
enlist risen sun
to fill fanned tails with red,
wash their breasts with gold.


So many birds no sooner raise their first brood than they are compelled to start the second. The northern summer is brief, but it is oh so full of tasty flies.



What absurd exalted vengeance I feel
for the deer fly in my palm
that I just slapped dead.
She tightened spirals around my head
and landed on my neck
which sings now with my slap.

Close, she is a marvel--delta-winged
and copper-eyed, banded wings and body.
She just wanted to ovulate.

But regrets vanish as her sister nails
me on the forehead. Blood lust
rises quick as she bit,
but oh, she got away.
My forehead reddens, rings.


Deer flies and horse flies are close cousins. I remember well killing horse flies as a child in the water at the lake. These flies co-evolved with the large slow blood-filled mammals, so we mammals bear some responsibility for their existence. The male deer flies live on nectar, pollen and plant juice. Why do so many females require a meal of blood? Why is our blood lust so easily triggered?



We thought it was a stump
floating round the pond,
aimless with the currents of the springs.
Close up today I saw it was
a snapping turtle bleached by sun...
but not long dead, held up
only by the gases of decay.
The turtle's shell lifts up in back,
tilts down in front.
eight inches In front of the shell,
the hard skull sits half out of water,
but the eyeholes are duckweed clogged.

In life it rarely surfaced.
It walked the ooze toward shore,
snaked its long neck up to kiss
the air with a snorkel nose.
That neck could leap from dark,
leap out fast as pondlight
to hook a minnow or a painted turtle
with its beak and pull it in,
or grab the feet of young teal
and swim down.

Today the beautiful, terrible predator bleaches,
aimless with the currents of the springs
while painted turtles pull off bits
and minnows nibble edges.


Look on my works, O ye mighty, and despair.



The young crow perched
atop a light standard
thrusts and opens its beak
as it is skimmed
by an endless series
of young swallows
playing dive bomber.
But they do not play.
Their minds are not ours.
The young of swallow and crow
fly through time forever enemies.
Their minds are not ours.


These tree swallows puzzle me, for they are cavity nesters whose eggs should be safe from hungry crows. But they must know what I cannot. In any case, we all manage to pass our hates along through time, and believe them to be necessary.



Babies present everywhere.
Fledgling birds and toadlets
fresh from summer nest and pool.
Sudden lines of swallows fill the wires,
tiny treefrogs on night glass,
The postwar boomlets of our kind,
that sweeping urge, demand to live again.

Uprooted flowers insists on bloom
and making seed,
to hell with roots and leaves.
Death teaches sap to rise.

We see it and our cells cry Yes!
Continuance is all that every life demands,
more than food, water, more than memory.
It is an older need each being serves,
but none quite know it until seized.



Today the leaves hang still,
dark green to the quiet sun.
Yesterday the wind the light the leaves
color-switched each gust,
the downsides of the leaves
lighter and blue-green on aspen trees
gray-green on the oaks.
Small white moths resting on the dim sides
flipped to bright, all aflutter
scurried to dark green
to be betrayed again by unsettled winds
and the play of topsy-turvy light.


We've all had these days when so much is happening that all you can do is keep scurrying from dark to bright, bright to dark. Even when the sum is beauty it is tiring, (but infinitely better than the thick wet heat the wind supplanted).



Near water's edge
a thick water snake gives birth.
She looks worn, her ridged scales are dark,
their patterns dim. Loosely coiled
she lifts her vent and pushes out,
one by one, wet translucent sacks.
Lively these placental sacks--
as each slides from her they thrash
until a bright black head pokes out
and tests birth with its tongue,
flicks red twin tips and zips them in
to taste this odd familiar place.
The newborns wiggle free, ringed
bright black and white, wet at first.
The firstborn all are moving
in their black-white rings, confusing
to the eyes of any eater of small snakes.
Sacks keep sliding forth,
heads keep popping out, red
tongues keep savoring their birth
until twenty-nine new water snakes
leave crumpled membranes for scavengers
and spread out in all directions.
Now she is alone, less thick,
her head upon the moss,
her open eyes unseeing.
Her skin is dark, its patterns dim.
Soon she stirs and slips
her shocking length into the pond.


To watch such an intimate renewal of life renews me. When a clutch is so large, it's clear that small snakes are a popular food for birds, snappers, and raccoons. Just enough will survive to fill their niche in the local pond ecology. Balance is kept.

FYI: Most snakes lay eggs; some, like garter snakes, are full live bearers; while still others are intermediate, delivering in membrane sacks.



On the horizon treetops toss
in undecided winds.

Close, huge hosta leaves glossed with rain
shudder with each drop.
Their grooved veins sharp even
in this wan overcast.

Across the pond
each flattened leaf-stem of the aspens
catches wind and dances its leaf.

The whole of soaked green growth
sways, tosses, flutters,
turbulent with secrets
and the lives of small birds.



Walking out,
from nowhere fall five crows
on one spot in the green horse pasture.

Walking back, I watch four crows
chase a red-tailed hawk into tall trees.
They don't continue to harass, but
fly back to the spot where mama feeds,
where they all pulled the hawk's tail until
he dropped his kill and in confusion fled.


Stealing another's kill from a predator better specialized for the hunt is a way of life for many creatures who rely on their wits. Homo habilus, we are told, probably made its living this way, and in the process became more clever. Tricksters rule.



The growls impress,
Large persuasive growls—
nothing like raccoon, not coyote—
a mystery of the dark until
the neighbor saw the bear
and scared her down the driveway.
She sounds half-grown, big bears
have small need to growl,
Last night she heard a mole
in our front lawn and tore
a divot snowshoe size.
She will stretch up against an oak or two
to claim her place, claw her mark.
As berries come in, she breaks
pagoda dogwoods down
for sweet, leaves none for birds,
the hole in her stomach large as her bulk.
It was the bear who pulled the suet down
two nights. I thought the crows had
got even smarter, but bear,

black as crow, is as omnivorous
and bright inside that massive skull.
We have a bear. A bright black bear.
Our ears and eyes are wide as night.


Black bears are spreading out again; pity them up against the madness of sprawl. They are not carnivores (80--90% vegetarian); like crows and humans, they are clever omnivores and unpredictable.

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