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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems,
August 2002


The first flower of bull thistle
opens. Look in
the flower center:
The blue whorl of
packed petals
beginning to unwheel.


Such sensual intricacy is a delight. Once again the spiral asserts significance. It's at the center. The argument from design becomes difficult to refute.



In mud beneath the bird feeder
long-fingered hands of raccoon
slapped illegible
by the flatfoot track of bear,
toes tipped each with claws.


Such a flatfooted visual thud the bear track has, especially when it obliterates the supple feet of raccoons, especially when it meets the human eye. Both are opportunists that live mostly on vegetable matter (fruits, nuts, seeds) much of the year. Of course, nesting birds would see this differently, as would the crawdads and ants.


The way light shines through oak groves
as morning mist begins to clear,
white oak leaves fill the eye with blue,
red oak leaves with deepest green.



A deer cropped the growing tip
of a Culver's root plant,
the tip that grows the flower,

so the plant grew six new tops
in a circle round the scar
which each became tall flower spires,

so this morning six spires hum
with bees who fill their legs
with pollen gold and suck sweets
from a white multitude of petaled tubes.


So. The deer satisfied its casual hunger; the plant provided sixfold food for bees, and sixfold seeds for itself. The deer intended to eat; the plant intended to make more seeds in the face of attack; the bees intend to eat, but pollinate as well. Disaster becomes increase. Within an ecosystem, we all help mutually, without intention.

FYI: Culver's root is a tall, lovely prairie/woodland wildflower with an unlovely name, once used to treat liver complaints.



When he isn't thrusting his tongue down
sweet trumpets, the rubythroat
sits a nearby twig to guard
his honeysuckle vine.

When an interloper dares
to slake its honeysuckle thirst,
the iridescent owner dives off his twig,
lifts his voice to wing pitch
and drives off the intruder
with needle beak
and supersonic screams.


Male hummingbirds burn enormous energy trying to keep other hummers from their food source, ignoring the myriad bees, wasps, flies and butterflies who deplete what he protects.
Most creatures reserve their greatest ire for their own kind. Humans are in good company.



The little hen turkey
clucks and clucks again
for chicks to return,
her only two chicks,
which flew into trees
thick with leaves when
the truck roared by
as the three young birds
walked down the road.

But the chicks in the trees
see a cat on the ground
attracted by clucks, and
won't fly to their mother
on the verge of the road.

The little hen paces and calls,
her first chicks hunker in leaves,
the cat prowls the ground.


The young of all species are easy and tender. Most turkey chicks are flocked up by now, and numbers keep them more safe as they forage in flocks of forty or sixty birds. I find myself judging a young mother turkey, which is absurd--but the roadside peril of chicks!



Jewelweed is in full flower,
wagging its long throat at
long-tongued hummingbirds.
Its weak stems hold it up
only with the weight of hovering.
Its jeweled mouth full-lipped orange,
pollen brush guards the throat.

When the pollinators have fed
and flown and flowers dropped,
Jewel becomes Touch-Me-Not.
Seeds are primed to fly one time.
The capsule explodes at slightest tap.
We will hear their patter.


As wild bergamot fades, Jewelweed (Impatiens) becomes a new pantry. The sequence of flowering ensures food for hummingbirds and butterflies, and guarantees pollination for wild impatiens, so the plants can repeat the trick next year, and the child in us can touch and explode the lovely Touch-Me-Not.



In tandem two brown bats
tilt and swoop against last light,
sudden out of high leafed silhouettes.

Below, nettles, ferns and bramble,
all the tangled brush begins
to pulse with fireflies
which flash at rest, in flight,
which cease en masse and then,
--yes--flash on and off again.

On the pond, splashes of small mysteries,
the stubborn grunts of green frogs.
Look up, full night. The bats
are become grace on faith.


Such pleasure in warm August nights. The cool lovefires of fireflies, wobbly bat flight, mosquitoes…without which, no bats.



How the berry-bushes shiver
with the feeding of the birds,
with the hopping and the plucking
of the always-hungry birds which
fatten now to fly an arc of earth-globe.
How wide the mouths of swallows,
tree and barn and cliff, as
they purge the sky of flies, then
line up on the phone wires
spaced a foot apart to wait until
the sky loads up with bugs again to eat
and they fatten up to fly an arc of globe.


Some six billion birds will soon fly down the great funnel of North America, returning to the tropics where they spend the winter. Imagine how crowded the Central American spout of the funnel becomes. Imagine how fruitful tropical ecosystems are to support six billion migrants plus a dense non-migratory population.



The tiger swallowtail
lights on purple liatris,
pauses for a sip, just
as the cat leaps:

flowers flurry,
yellow wings flutter
as the cat skulks.


The butterfly looked fresh, as if it had just spent hours unrolling its bright wings. Predation happens so unexpectedly fast, but is hateful when its object is so perfect. Predators, happily for us sentimental folks, succeed only some of the time.



I stand below and listen
to the singer on the wire,
he lets me stay and hear
his variations on the themes
of love and local power.

Plain and small, he is a native sparrow,
but his double-voiced trill is ornate.
His openings are hoarse,
he likes to end with rasps,
but between pours out his beak
melodies without repeat
on the eternal themes
of love and local power.


In any large view, plain birds are we all, and small. And no matter how puissant we seem, our powers are entirely local in space and time. Yet this little bird's willingness to let me stay and hear him sing welcomes me, enlarges me, and connects me to the true power in the life community.



Walking this land in August wind,
the crest of every hill its own horizon
of blowing long-stemmed grass
rippling as in a green and rolling river,
complete with wildflower foam.

Oak trees play the gray-green game
as their leaves swap up for down.
In the cattail lowlands tall leaves
sway blue-green while brown tails stiffly stand.

The response of plants to wind always intrigues. Plants that are blown around a lot grow strong stems; those that don't are weak-stemmed. The bristlecone pines, gnarled and twisted by life on mountain tops, are the oldest multicellular beings on earth. The oldest yet found has resisted wind for 4,769 years.



goldfinches at spent thistles now
ride them down, jerk out
fluffseeds one by one,
bite off the fluff, swallow seed
to plant another place.
The nest will eat,
the thistles thrive.


Goldfinches, unlike other northern birds, nests in August. They apparently time their nesting to the ripening of thistle seed. Or you could say thistles persuaded goldfinches to disperse their seeds. In any event, both thistle and goldfinch are grateful for the less industrious farmers.

Extra Entry for 8.16

She-loves-me, Loves-me -not is the game
for little Daisy Fleabane
Here she blushes pink, and
over this way, blue,
but her petals are so delicate and fine
She-loves-me, Loves-me -not
is a game for undecided millipedes.