An inchworm curly as a question is busy munching
a groove through a golden flower head,
sees me, exclaims itself straight up!
stiff as punctuation, body tube
the exact shape and size and
precise green of the fleabane flower stem.
It even wears a narrow tuft of gold for mimicry.
Two gold flower heads are chewed
entirely bare, one mini-skirted white.
This master of disguise becomes
a stem of daisy fleabane while
transforming daisy fleabane into itself.
Mimicry is serious fooling. The little inchworm saves itself from birdbeaks, so perfectly it mirrors fleabane stem.
The geometrid moth the caterpillar will become will arrive on Earth entirely a transformation of flowers.
Five dry seed tubes
lift in tandem, each tipped
with a tapered point
of wild columbine.
On each case side
this flower husk.
Sun plays shadow light
on convex stretch-marks
seeds made as they grew.
The vase top is open wide,
a bell mouth laughing,
tapered tips stretch
in five directions—
a dry foolscap
ringing out the seed.
As high sun
cascades through leaves,
nearer soil, grasses
gather light into the seeds
paired along their stems.
They are thin grain lanterns
on the forest floor, brighten
in the dim, flicker as sunlight
dapples riffling leaves.
Little phoebe fresh from the nest
doesn’t care to be out. He perches
here and there, tries where the oriole
sips, then scared off sinks his breast
to wood as if returned to nest.
He looks around awhile, eyes bright,
huddled breast, and perhaps
wonders that the others are not here.
He flies well, is fully fledged, but isn’t yet wired to flick his tail, as phoebes do. So he’s very new. Tries the seeds in the feeder, not right, then tries where the orange one went, not right either, so plunks down and calls up yesterday.
A cottontail stands straight up
to best calculate my approach,
its danger. Late sun glows tall ears,
a red artery. Prey have big eyes
and ears set wide and high.
So utterly still this pose
but every nerve
beneath this fur sparks,
synapses ready surge.
adrenaline courses in
All day alert,
prepared to run,
I think of small apes
on African grasslands,
stilled, on tiptoes,
every sense alive,
in their early minds.
Say imagination is perhaps one result of being hunted, as I imagine australopithecines were, way down the backalong. Cottontail is perfectly adapted to this dance of carnivore and prey.
The fawn looks back
as fawns do,
to see what sent him
the safe tall green.
What kind of thing am I?
No image in his brain
matches me. I am
no running wolf,
no cat bellied down,
I am too new a thing,
a puzzle for us both.
I am new, and fawn is new,
but fawn is elder too,
even with birth spots
to blend him into dapple light.
I have earned no camouflage,
for I am predator wondering
if we will both endure
so long an image grows of me
in fawn’s instinctive mind.
Bold she is and tall, this
primrose of the evening.
Gold she is with sun, but
buds poise toward stars.
Twilight petals she unfolds,
small suns few eyes see.
Moths fly to her scent,
pale wings blink moonlight.
Close-up, one blossom
is style to anther webbed, each
silk strand strung pollen gold
as if a little spider wants to
get a jump on moths, with
the aid of wind to loose
pollen to the silk, then to style.
The evening primrose flower is ephemeral, opens at dusk, wilts next afternoon. The spider may induce the plant to fertilize itself, if such is possible for primrose of the evening.
Kingfisher waits for a silver flash
to reach up from pool,
transfix his eye,
dive him down for silver—
Or if silver winked and hid,
kingfisher hovers high in place,
holds his eye in one still space for
that brief gleam, finds it, plummets—
breaks water wings already strong,
sprinkles rain with
a silver wrinkle in his beak.
Belted kingfisher’s stance proclaims him always ready
to take the plunge, the gamble of the carnivore. The huge beak looks as though it pulls him downward.
A small meadowhawk with eyes
the red of blown coals
perches on a broken branch
to take the sun,
I hope already fed, or
too weary now to fly more
toward its season’s end.
Summer spins down and with it
the common multitude of lives
which have dropped their eggs in ponds,
inserted them in soil or stem,
or flowered to sail seed on wind
or made seed prickly so a raccoon
will carry it in fur for days until long fingers
winkle it out and plant it where it lands,
or grew a fruit to carry seed
and timed its sweet so migrating birds
will drop etched seed upon a distant field.
None of this concerns
the little red-eyed dragonfly
whose naiads prowl the pond,
whose coals will wink out soon, and cool.
Only we time-bound humans have plotted the planet’s tour of sun and imagine what is to come. I would rather live outside of time, without, like all the cousins.
I almost step on it, kneel to
a dragonfly wing,
its net cast on roadway
dried and cracked, a shining end.
Such wings have fallen so
forever, a few we’ve found
printed on shale
that was once mud.
Each cell within this wing
Is the hexagon
12,000 times repeated in the eyes
this wing carried into light
until the two-eyed kingbird struck.
This crack in earth, this latticed
wing converge here, now, sound all
the chords of loss and beauty both.
In the pond behind the house,
Mom stands on a float log,
five offspring perched behind her
on a dead branch just above water.
Her ducklings suddenly enormous,
she teaches them to be blue-winged teal.
As each youngster paddles home
from grazing duckweed, she signals
with her waggling tail. The kids each
bow and duck heads into water over and again,
this ritual punctuated with tail-stands
that end with enthused wing-flaps.
Nature and nurture synchronize:
these rituals all wired in, she releases
their expression, teaches the social when.
It rolls into me through summer eve,
this fine horn song that undoes
so spirit swoops out wide.
In the cattail marsh out back
two sandhill cranes
lift heads to sky and warble
the call named Unison,
the music that re-bonds each arrival.
The pair nest here. I think of
raccoon and skunk,
raptor and coyote, all
who love an egg or gangle chick.
Between lights, we humans thin in gray,
so bound in moments
which have not yet been
or are so long gone that we
endlessly attenuate the call
to bond in unison to now.
There are the times
that whimsy rules
and even already antic spirits
give it sway.
If there is a Puck
Its eyes are huge
and black, its body white,
and white legs all adangle,
Wings of orange and black it beats
so flutter-quick perception lags;
it’s always where it’s not.
I catch the image
of least skipperling
afloat above blue vervain,
tongue ready to uncoil
into each blossom’s throat
and suck the nectar offered
for a service old as pollen gold.
Meadowhawks make a mating wheel,
and the lovers fly around like this
on all eight saffron-tinted wings,
a mating flight we earthbound
lovers can but dream.
We all yearn to complete the circle,
join with the other, not merge
but complement, create
this shape that Earth applauds.
Sometimes we do cast
circle shadows of our joinings,
but shadows lack inertia.
Yet here are saffron meadowhawks,
golden female, scarlet male.
Each summer they are lovers young
and ancient as geology.
They synchronize eight wings to fly
as if one whole.
And that’s the thing: they know how.
Some describe the dragonfly mating wheel as heart-shaped. That works too. Each of a dragonfly’s four wings is independently controlled, so coordinating eight wings well enough to fly joined in the wheel is doubly amazing.
Among debris this butterfly will not be seen,
will vanish among dead bark and leaves.
I see it for it sits on green. Textured wings of gray
and black, wing edges ragged as if chewed,
we call this live dead leaf the Question Mark.
It only sometimes needs to hide.
Like the GI from Brooklyn in old
films, Question Mark always has an angle.
In flight it warns the birds with Monarch orange
that it tastes terrible, a lie, if a white lie can be orange.
Perched it is pure dead leaf.
Question Mark flashes as it flies, invites
the other sex to fly along to taste the answer
it conceals, reveals, conceals.
He plays ‘picket pin’ when I first notice him,
inspecting his domain and
watching my intrusion.
I am demolished by his charm,
grass-blade gleams, fur tapestry
of lines and spots,
delighted by his forepaws
held out in front
together, bright with sun, long toes
held like fingers closed.
Were they loose before he saw me?
This thirteen-lined ground squirrel is used to humans but wary, as is wise. When one stands sentinel, you can be sure a burrow entrance is next to its feet. A picket pin was a metal stake used by cavalry soldiers to tether a horse, the term now used by field biologists.
A vine tendril loops upon its way
to a ripe grass seedhead
which it tightly binds.
On the open tendril loop a small spider
travels upside down,
palps the path ahead.
Soon she will climb straight down
the curve, then steeply up to where,
circle won, she can be upright again.
Earth offers every metaphor,
discovers us our lives.
Tendrils seem almost Moebius, but not quite. The spider will have to swap surface at the top.
Three mushrooms lift from grass
with last night’s soak, frog-belly pale.
They are rib-edged all round,
Three heights they enact
like the Three Bears,
Papa Mushroom huge, thick-stemmed,
Mama smaller, straight, flat-topped,
Baby Mushroom small toadstool,
still domed, pure form.
At first light, a mouse sat on Mama’s stool
and chewed through to her gills, as
no toad would dare violate her perch.
I can hear Baby’s high-pitched dudgeon,
“Who’s been eating on my Mama?”
And Papa Mushroom deep intones,
“Who’s been sitting on my wife?”
The little deermouse watching
from the underbrush
gulps and tells himself,
“My fur looks gold only in sun bright.”
She flies near ground,
scans close her domain
of meadow and brushed marsh,
eyes keen for movement that wears fur.
Harrier wears wide wings not to soar
but to glide her
harrow shadow low.
She flows her space,
aligns her owl-face to hear
stereo skitters in dry leaves
and home in.
Harrier hawks (aka marsh hawk), take their name from archaic ‘harrow,’ related to ‘harrowing.’
Treefrog hunts the glass
where light draws food
that can’t fly through this
this clear bewilderment.
Treefrog waits to ambush
food that cannot perceive her,
food she cannot herself
see until it moves. Then
it’s the old hop and gulp.
Frogs judge edibility by size and movement. For toads, If it will fit, tongue will flick. Treefrogs leap to the movement, fed by our night windows, fed by our burning coal that was laid down even before the treefrogs became many species.
Osprey sweeps the waves,
courses up and down the beach
searches the new tide for any silver
flash in unwary shallows,
which tidal fish will know, ever brief,
the meaning of a falling
shadow from the sky
who takes the silver to renew,
as the tide redeems the shingle
pulled as all lives by the endless
ebb and rise of moon.
The predators have the terrible beauty that lifts our hairs. How we are all caught up in these natural cycles of eating and renewal, pulled by the ancient daily and monthly tides, with no more choice than fingerling fish or larval crabs.
Waves of ice surge and toss in frozen storm,
mirrors of deep tormented rock,
the glacier fields below the summit of Ranier.
The ice is striate with crevasses, lined,
wrinkled like an ancient face miles across.
Seracs lift pinnacles of ash-coated ice
sweeps of unshaved whiskers.
I am told that when you break through snow there
and dangle, a human mote upon a rope,
in a bottomless crevasse of ice,
the light of many blues slakes and sates
your every dream of glory, but
when you are rescued from such beauty,
by relieved companions lifted out,
you will yearn forever for return.
Sanderlings race their way with waves,
eager to pluck fresh tidbits from surf slosh.
Their legs all but twinkle in their rush, blur
like their mirror selves that stretch and ripple
in the return of wave to sea.
These little surf shorebirds rush up the sand and race back down again, quick as unexpected grins.
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