Sometimes a curve itself
is everything an eye needs
as it finds the shape of wave
and as the eye discovers water
in its pleasure.
even starlings are exactly right
as these arrange themselves,
their weight in ounces spread
just so as they space themselves
in distances each can bear
and in doing help the naked branch
toward perfection in its downcurve,
but at the upcurve
two starling ounces do not bend down
treewood warped toward sun,
for it is that lifting at branch end
that carries all that’s needful
to eyes so whelmed with the pure
pleasure of a curve across the sky.
A fried-egg jelly drifts close to rocks
and begins to pump its bell.
On the upstroke its white mantle
lifts above the yolk, stalked
tentacles drawn in to hold sea
and pulse the bell down.
Each down pulse reveals the torus
of translucent strength that floats
the jelly high at surface as rocks draw near.
A jelly’s life is brief, but valued. I watched one being hunted by a much larger Lion’s Mane jelly, which lost out as the fried-egg quickly pulsed away. No brain, but smart enough.
Not sure about ants. Thought I was, but this
is aphid abuse, this avid pile of ants and underneath
a flock of aphids sucking at the leaf fast enough to wilt,
but will that satisfy the shepherds? Never. They will keep
on tapping feelers on little round aphid rumps until
the cows come home—no wait, we are the flock--so
there I am, just about to pierce a succulent daisy leaf—Grandiflora it was—when this big ant
just grabs me up with her jaws without so much as a
by your leave. Mandibles like a saw, and here’s me
hoist high and six legs wiggling, and did the others care?
They saw, I know, but they wouldn’t look up
from their leaf sucking. Well allright, I’ve done the same,
not a lot a green girl can do when one of those big strong mamas just grabs you up right off the leaf. This bunch is Red you know, and we all know what that means. Me, I’d rather
get tapped on the bum by three Black girls than one
of these worker Reds. So we walk and walk, half running up stems and down, me wiggling and her squeezing her sharp jaws tighter every time until she finally drops me on a leaf where this little flock is sucking and Sweet Granny Aphid! It’s a milkweed! I’d have to be dry husked and leg curled before this green girl would stick my stylet into those bitter veins on purpose, but this red ant just stares at me with those flat eyes until I back down and stick my stylet in and the taste is bitter, bitter, but it fits and that’s an odd thing how bitter can be sweet, and isn’t that the way?
now join us on firm earth,
fresh from their third creation.
The split husk of the second
lazes in sun hooked to a cattail
while the new incarnation rests alert
beside me on a meadow stem.
Dragonfly wings are all jeweled,
but these gold-thread nets
that contain black and gold
are what light transforms to see.
This newborn is a calico pennant, a new astonishment to me.
Life radiates from the center
in the old woods where light
splashes Oregon grape,
leaf-shine and blushed berries
on stems sharing sun in four directions.
At the center, a doorway to
last season, ribbed veins
on dried bigleaf maple leaves,
branching lichen, all bright against
the shade of trees that spill
just enough light to grow
this shining sprawl.
A fledgling barn swallow cocks an eye up
to where parents hunt flying food
for their hungry youngster who has not yet
learned to hunt the currents and flow of sky,
nor does it know of its ruddy breast, its necklace,
but does know its beak is wide as sky
and right now empty, so it waits
like all young, to open up.
Much is not endowed solely by the egg. Kingfishers must learn to dive and swim, swallows to hunt, songbirds to sing. But the genes do confer a predilection to learn these skills fast and well.
Life is unlikely.
Sometimes the surprise delights.
As I approach, a small critter
slips off the flowerhead
and clambers down a tier
to hang from the stem.
It is Chimera, part thorn, part insect
that can’t decide if it wants to fly
on such narrow tattered wings.
These leg thorns are startling mimicry--
What would dare eat them?
Meet the geranium plume moth. Lives mostly on the mint family, eats their nectar, lays its eggs in the flowers. Their narrow wings deceive. Unmothy wings lie atop each other like cards, fan out when it flies. I remain amazed.
Watch today two geometer inchworms
eating circles down the flower cone
of a brown eyed susan. Each diner
anchors its hind end with prolegs while
its truelegs secure the true flowers
being munched. As these partners feed in spirals
down the flower dome, Susan will exhibit true
male-pattern dome-shine. This flower will grow no seeds
from its true coneflowers advertised by yellow rays,
but its flowers true will grow these inchworms two
into their cocoons where they will transform into
moths who will partner and lay their eggs on
brown eyed susans whose true flowers
were not fine spiral dining for measuring worms.
True-flower is an odd concept for a plant which relies on the subterfuge of false petal rays to attract pollinators. Measuring worm caterpillars all seem to eat in circles and spirals, and those that require coneflowers all begin on top and eat the widening spiral down. True!
She is perennially immodest
and innocent, corolla hiked
right over her stem, this wild
and sudden turk’s cap lily
splendid again, all orange petal recurves
rising from the green
downcurve of stem which
centers the show, the whole
exposure of anther on stamen,
stigma on style, performed
and perfumed to entice and delight
her chosen, the fritillary flutterby,
spangled and great.
What lengths life goes to, to insure gene exchange.
The katydid nymph stands
just inside the open daylily and waves
antennae longer than itself
at the rich gold anthers
curving out on stamens.
If it were a mammal standing so,
it would salivate, lick its lips
had it lips, for this tiny nymph has
hit the mother lode, manna
that was not here yesterday,
and may have fallen
in the night from sky.
Katdydids are not pollinators,
their nymphs are pollen-eaters,
and when this nymph leaves
its sudden flower for the night,
gold will speckle all the length
of long antennae and
like any young being
gold will sparkle
on one careless lidless eye.
This pollen-fed little katydid is a fifth or sixth instar of the
fork-tailed bush katydid. Here is a larger sibling eating pollen gold.
Sulfur butterflies never seem to stop
but stop they do for summer’s ancient drive,
and make a pretty pair, wings discreet
as they couple privately.
Neither is on top.
One is yellow, one is green.
No one flutters protest across blue.
All is how it’s always been. For now.
Mud Dauber built panpipes on my stucco
from mud she carried in her mandibles.
She hummed a sprightly tune as she stung
spiders not to death but to sleep
and hummed them into tubes where
she quietly lay an egg on each.
A mother’s music, a wild mother’s song
is strongest when she feeds young.
She is often called the organ pipe wasp, but her affinity is to the wild pipes of elder gods.
Little flower spider in the phlox
looks completely obvious,
could not fool a bug brain but
she does, not every time,
enough to get by spider style
and get so big she must find
hybrid roses to haunt.
How does she fool the wasp?
Flowers paint dark nectar guides at center,
bright in ultra-violet light. Guides
are invitations to the bees, “Nectar!”
So how does she fool the wasp?
She paints a nectar guide on her backside,
aims her bum toward flower center, opens
arms and jaws to welcome nectar-seekers,
and waits stone-still as long as it takes.
Great egret’s plumes dance in a wind
so welcome she opens her beak
as if to exclaim, but I hear no voice.
It must be a pleasure to feel a current
of air pass through the chambers
of an open beak, a resonance
unique to the crook necked,
long beaked heron kind.
Or maybe she’s going to yawn.
We walk in the shadows of fire.
Charred branches wobble in no direction,
cannot conceive leaves, but draw wronged
shadows on needle duff and bedrock.
But hoarded calcium, potassium
are released a hundreth time to soil
that begins again, returns fireweed
and pearly everlasting, the promise
in their buds of some risen glory.
River flow is this way, that,
eddies and doldrums,
but wild rice finds
the flow that shapes.
As reeds mark time
they do bend but prefer
to make their shadows
mirrors of themselves upright
in contrast to slipshod
rice blades angling
Both ways accept that
currents not of their making
will shape their paths
and mirror their shadows.
When I kneel to ground pine and blue bead lily,
ride knees to see twisted-stalk dangle berries red,
sink fingers into mosses, touch again
the textures of cedar bark and lichens here,
I am home in a way deep as the lungs
I fill with these boreal woods.
It was here I learned of love and place before
I needed knees, when I could vanish
beneath a swath of bracken fern.
Not merge. Nothing surrenders.
I never fooled the red squirrels
in the red pine who knew where I was,
nor fooled the porcupine in the icehouse
who chewed sweat-salt tools, chattered teeth
and rumbled off from my interruptions.
I cherished their clear uncare. I didn’t know then
that their lack of loving me had set me free.
So now that I need knees to see these,
my first loves, it exactly fits to be on them.
This boreal ecosystem was once called the Canadian carpet, now called the biome of the Canadian Shield or Laurentian Shield, or simply Canoe Country.
I think this shiny beetle’s new,
how the jet eye shines in sun
as it may not have done before today,
when it still in pupa lay.
The legs collect hooks and edges
like a lacquered samurai
sharp mandibles as well.
Such intimidating black: why?
I wonder: does it know yet
that it can fly?
Can you imagine that surprise?
This is Osmoderma scabra, one of many scarab beetles in the flower chafer group, much larger than most.
What a flower spike has the mountain maple,
what a spike of seeds to fly in autumn.
These danglers are paired samaras,
whose blushes foretell Fall before leaf-fall,
foretell the future as all seeds intend--
May these mature and spin to soil before a hungry
moose or whitetail finds them tasy browse.
These midsummer pastels are the gift of Acer spicatum,
mountain maple, or in some locales, moose maple. A shrubby understory tree, it stays low because in the north country, it is a favorite winter browse of whitetail deer and moose. Browse shrubs are the epitome of hope; they present their seeds for all to admire and perhaps eat.
Damselflies are older than coal,
but fossils in black carbon
may show wings, thorax, even eyes,
but only the color of time,
compressed with horsetail and fern.
In some time even before
coal grew tall and green
the flutter of damselflies
fluoresced in the ultraviolet
of light that splashed rivers
carving their first canyons
even as the eastern forktail today
in fluorescent green and blue
announces himself to true
damsels of his kind.
Only a few kinds of insects fluoresce in UV light. Of those, I think damsel and dragonflies are the oldest. Therefore, the Odanata invented fluorescence. Or the scorpions. No one knows.
Green lives always on the edge of char.
Wood burns away season by season,
soft springwood to summerwood hard.
Earlywood springs up again to cast green
shade upon the land’s memories of fire.
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copyright © Morning Earth 2007