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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
August 2003



Two half-grown raccoons
curl in the dark
about a basswood trunk.
When I shine the light,
one is afraid and scampers into night.
The other stays on the bark,
stares into the bright,
making a choice.


All the cousins are individual personalities. Raccoons can be among the most confident, even arrogant mammals. I fell into instant admiration of the little masked critter who boldly stared into my light.



One daybreak
the first bird feels
a stirring, opens
his beak into song.
Earth perks her ears.
Small theropods grin,
lift tails, walk smartly.
Frogs feel tympana thrum
sequences never heard.
Little furries
poke heads up
from fernbrake.
Off in the cycads, the eye
of the first feathergirl
Morning is never the same.


The truly amazing thing is that this did happen one time, just as each word we know was once spoken for the first time by one human mouth. So many unknown moments to celebrate. So much inheritance.



Treefrog lands on
worn cedar
in his bright
hop home
after hunting bugs
caught by gold

His toe-tip cups,
eye humps, smooth
beaded hide: these curves
are the knot’s curves:
life’s grain.

It always comes down to the circle, and here, the branch which the knot records. Treefrog primary habitat is branches, green leaves.



Seed panicles of field grasses
white in August sun
float and sway in wind:
unlikely mist.

Birds make free now
with grasshopper crunch
which rattles about on wings.

Evening primrose in bloom,
and mullein from the top down.
Butter yellow wets my mouth.


A time for small transitions. Certain yellow wildflowers evoke a just-realized synesthesia of taste for me--we churned our own butter during WWII. Grasshoppers are one of Earth’s premier grazers; they now become rich protein for predators both bird and mammal. Raccoons and skunks pat the grasses at night to find somnolent hoppers, crunched before they know it. Birds by day, mammals by night. Hardly seems fair.



Look up tonight, Moon
is netted in branch and leaf
but never caught.
Moon catches eyes,
caches time, as she
rolls around the seasons.

Lakota call this
Black Cherry Moon.
Down in the river bottoms
cherry boughs sag
with dark fruit

awaiting cool nights to sweeten
so trained animals will gorge
and spread the seed.

Ojibway call this
Berry Moon: when
wild plums go red,
serviceberries blush maroon,
elder swells in musky clusters.

Up north, blueberry feast.
leaves splashed blue
with bird droppings,
bear scat seedy blue, bears
embrace berrybush and saplings
and walk them down with weight,
flatten them to ground
where wide wet mouths
strip clusters free
in mumbling ecstasy.



The field is a tossing of stalked plate-flowers.
Plates tilt as if twirled on carnival sticks.
White saucers of Queen Anne’s Lace
wobble in breeze, crowd the eye.
Beetles of orange rove
plates of pure white, dip
sweets from myriad flowers.
Spent flower plates curl
into intricate nests woven
by some quirk of dry hydraulics.
Cages of green filigree
sequester small seeds, but why?


Queen Anne’s Lace, or wild carrot, is one of those ladies who retains her mystery through all the seasons of her life. The soft-bodied flower beetles offer color to her white throughout her long bloom. But her power most strange is the basket-sphere each multiple flower becomes.



August night,
punctuated by
the strange quick ratchet
of the katydid who
presents at the window screen,
bright green, a leaf alive and veined
and searching for its kind,
leaf with high knees,
swept back antennae .
It sings its wings together in a blur,
raised veins scrape and stridulate
the sharp ratchet of
the announcing katydid.


Katydids are modest most of the year, eating oak leaves in treetops. But when the season comes upon them they are night loud. Once you see them, their beauty seen. dispels any irritation.



As I walk the sun-baked shoulder of the road
a grasshopper flees ahead of me,
turning from monochrome brown (even to eyes),
to a brief flower of yellow and black,
ten feet each time, over and over as my feet scuff near.

I am cast into the memory dream, walking
barefoot down a sandy woodland stream.
The blue heron unfolds up and flies,
lands around a curve. Each time I reappear,
he turns its head and peers past his beak,
leaps up and flees as I near.
Loud the clap of wings.


Time. Such a mystery, how we are cast about in that ocean, how sudden and complete the immersion. Chasing is the oldest game.



A dark dawn,
our sable cat lies dead.
His red tongue tip out.
Scout rubbed my leg
two hours ago, when
he ran out the door.
I didn’t know
I offered him to night.
He looks so small.
I can’t write.



The season’s final brood of barn swallows
perches on a telephone wire, while
a calling parent hunts the sky for food.
Her wide mouth delivers flies again and again.
As she approaches each child, it trembles wings.

When I walk close beneath, she warns.
When I don’t stop, one quick call throws them all to sky,
where they must practice for migration,
when many die. Soon families from many barns
will line the wires, and vanish overnight.


Migrating swallows fly far each night, 600 miles or so. Imagine counting wing beats. What a first experience after hatching and being fed always by mum and da’. Now imagine how many late-brood fledglings survive migration. Most species are thoroughly winnowed.



began with thunder,
promised downpour, runoff,
but delivered a half-inch
of soaking lovely leaf-drip rain.
A dozen bluejays
cavort and scream in the feeder
wild as my spirit:


After a month-long dry, not a real drought, but enough to fear, the land has been given drink. South-slope roadside mullein had quit blooming. Water is life, sing praise!



A goldfinch male
lifts and falls
across the pond
flame-child of sun.
Wingburst, fold
and arrow dip,
wingburst, lift:
sine curves in flight.


Goldfinches are late breeders. Chicks are in the nest. Males are August gold beyond bright. So much of life creates the sine curve: wing folding songbirds, cow paths, turkey tracks across the winter pond, population distributions. Connections.



Spotted jewelweed blooms now
on low ground.
Orange-lipped blossoms invite
swift wings to open them.
When bees and hummingbirds leave,
carry on beak and leg
gold pollen to the next
orange-lipped bloom,
the blossoms smile, in control.


Yin rules. It seems to take Yang forever to learn that not all dualities are equal.



Cool night. Dawn mist
hovers above wetlands.
As it begins to lift,
in a transient quirk
the mist reveals layers,
allows vision beneath
its flat underside.
The owl perched
on the stretched low
branch of butternut
does not shift
as her veil
translates into sight.


As night mists dissolve from the mind, it is lovely to find one’s state of being echoed in the mists of dawn. The barred owl is earth’s resonant night mystery.



In the pink cosmos flower
a tiny bee has her jodhpurs
filled with pollen gold, thighs
so wide she bumbles over
the gold-ripe anther dome.

The perfection of the miniature is my continual lure. A lifetime of seeing does not approach nature’s repertoire of intricacy.



Urgent grasshoppers
etch dreams all night
with their pulsing rasp
of wing-edge struck
against toothed leg.

Thumbnail plucking comb crudely approximates how the grasshopper mating song is made. Male cicadas have tymbals in their bellies which they flex in and out to shrill like a tweeter cone. Yin rules, and poor Yang has to sing all night.


Like inverted candles
the fruits of ironwood trees
hang from branch tips,
papery seed-sheaths
burn bright green
back at the sun. Soon
they'll dry brown and prepare
the winds to rattle.


Ironwood, aka hop hornbeam, has fruits much like the hop vine, a linear sequence of attached segments much like a rattlesnake’s rattles. But they warn only of new life.

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