Cinnamon fern grows brown fertile fronds
in the center of its tall green vase.
These fertile fronds are segmented tubes
that twist and clasp each other as they grow,
a hundred worms stuck to a central spine
and trying to climb. In the end they become alien
organic cannons filled with spores--
tubes break at the tips, spill BBs into breeze.
I looked at them today. The spores are small
and my eyes grow wonder wide
at my new magnifying eyes—the spheres of life
repeat so many times and ways
it spins my mind. I orbit awe.
I am struck ever more strongly by the iteration of natural forms across life’s kingdoms and principalities. It seems that life has tried every strategy for reproduction; what a bewildering array!
September, and birds drift south
like early leaves, but one bindweed
bells white among dry grasses,
and in every field and roadside
goldenrod returns to sun its gold.
How we cherish the final bursts of color. Asters will peak soon,
and then, of course, maple leaves will flame.
How long have we cherished
the twilit silhouettes of trees?
When sky is still a blue blending
into dusk, and tall trees etch branch
and twig into horizons however far,
we are drawn ,as I suspect
precursors were looking from
rock shelters at acacia trees.
In its branching and rebranching
tree may be the oldest metaphor
for thought and how it feels, so
I wonder if chimpanzees like at dusk
to gaze upon the silhouetted trees.
The thing about mysteries of time and mind is their stubborn refusal of solution, and the best thing is their insistence that we ask questions.
A little fish
who lives in a snail shell
discovers a bubble of air
deep within her home. Now
she carries bite-size silver
bubbles of air out of her shell one
after another, spits them out
to roll upward through water
tumbling like mirrored balloons.
How strange it would be to bite away a portion of an air bubble. She is only an inch long, so she must take many bites. But she perseveres, for a shell soiled by air is no place to hatch eggs. She is Neolamprologus ocellatus gold, from Lake Tanganyika, Africa, one of several shell-dwellers there who find a snail shell solid protection from predators.
Once long ago, sun spilling wavelets,
I curled my skinny self around
a river stone and fell backwards
out of the boat, held my mask tight.
How quickly dark it was, dropping through
that whiskey-watered border lake. I was
glad to have warm stone to embrace.
How grand to curl up like an ammonite
in ancient seas, swim among fossils.
Like the embrace of ammonite and nautilus,
I want to grow a spiral of my life.
But it takes so long to embrace yourself,
so long to grow larger each segment.
I wish I were still as curly dumb and smart
as that fool kid who fell deep into dark
water and came thrashing up to light.
The Egyptian god Ammon wore spiral ramshorns. The ammonites were a kind of cephalopod mollusk with tentacles bunched out of the open end. Like the chambered nautilus, they swam by pulsing water through their siphons, and also like nautiloids, they sutured off chambers behind them as they outgrew them, leaving buoyant air sealed in. Their spiral kind survived much longer than the dinosaurs.
A month ago, Jack stood upright alone
in his high pulpit canopied by a green spathe.
But Jack kept a secret—he was a flower,
both Jack and Jill, as flowers are, and by and by
a fly or bee came by, and Jack began
to swell into bulby green seeds.
Last week Jack began to ripen out of green.
Today Jack is red and ready to drop his/her seeds.
Jack is red—paltry, banal—Jack bulges and flames
with procreation’s fires—bodice-ripper—Jack
defines the word red—literary—Jack blushes
with his need—syrup, anyone?--
Jack burns red so birds will see and eat his seeds
and disperse them for miles around in red
droppings splash—too much information--
Jack’s a glorious red, like blood first touching air
and splashing on a flag—too election year—oh well,
Today Jack is red and ready to drop seeds,
eager to meet the beaks of birds—I quit. Enough.
In Memory of 9.11
When we turned in,
the nightsong of grasshoppers was benign.
When we woke our world had turned,
and song had grown insectile teeth.
When we turned in
we had forgotten that life on earth is pulsed with pain.
We were sacrosanct, immune.
When we woke, our world was dark,
waking in the dark was congruent,
We want to know no more.
As we wake we learn again
how tough we are,
how tough all earth-life is
and how welcome every song
to bless our night
restore our sight.
Be aware of the spirit insisting that we begin to heal. Make sure kids know there is no guilt in smiles again, that they know this healing after catastrophe is what all life on earth does when it must.
I drive north. Mistake.
To reverse I take a left,
turn my head and here’s a fox!
A bright red fox in sun
rolling on a blacktop driveway.
He rubs his cheeks on it like a cat,
rolls over this way, that, sprawls
four legs up, stands to stretch, spine
curved in the delicious tension
of a being whole and wild.
Once done he perks his ears
and trots across three adjoining
grassy yards, ignores me
as I follow on the shoulder.
He fills and fills my chest.
Driving on is hard, but
easy after being blessed.
Unplanned encounters with the wild are best. I’m glad I took the wrong direction on the way to a school meeting. Wrong turns are sometimes right. It’s when we see the cousins doing things we do that we cherish the connections.
I plucked a little mushroom from the earth
to scan its picture, but forgot,
left it on the scan-glass overnight.
When I booted up and scanned, I found
the third kingdom had been busy in the dark.
Mold had cast a veil upon the glass,
two white starbursts, feathered and translucent,
one atop the other, but you can see how
the hyphae grew out further on the first,
as if an impossibly fine-tip brush had sketched
feathers with thinned titanium white.
Mold spores are everywhere, and opportunistic. Molds are important decomposers, the recyclers of materials life must have available. I like the irony of a mold feasting on a mushroom. I love the beauty of its delicate hyphae.
Of what is baneberry the bane?
You don’t hear about banes much
except wolfbane in the odd film.
Bringer of death is what bane means,
but to whom? It’s a pretty little plant.
Clustered berries of red
shine among lady ferns,
or clustered berries of white,
doll’s eyes they’re called,
for the pupil black on each berry end.
Eyes of dolls are these days horrorshow.
They click open when they should sleep,
and sometimes track you across the room.
I was never a little girl, but had I been, Goddess forbid,
I would have rejected eyeballed eyes on dolls
and insisted on crosses sewn to refuse the bane.
The baneberry is indeed poisonous in all parts. It is related to monkshood, aconitum. Like monkshood, baneberry is a beautiful plant in all its parts. Beauty is rarely revealed by names, which are too often narrowly construed. Apologies to Anthony Burgess, a great coiner of words.
I’ve been pulling buried seeds
out of my jeans and shirt for days,
seeds buried and wiggling deeper
with their mammal-training hooks,
determined as anything on or below Earth
to travel to new soil and swell a bit,
send a white rootlet out to quest
toward Earth’s grave center
and plant itself in new ground,
then aim a stem toward white fire
and repeat the miracle one more time.
It never gets old, however many
trillion times it happens. But we furry
mammals do get old, and this one’s still
crochety about these hooks
dug in so deeply in my clothes.
The seeds always win; even clever monkey fingers can’t beat natural Velcro, which, by the way was invented (?) by a man who looked at Burdock under a magnifying glass. We just keep inventing things that Nature thought up ten million years ago. Our claims of originality sound curiously like the Soviet Russians who claimed every invention as their own not long ago.
Lobelia flowers, close-up, contain
little mouths which gape open
like cartoon lips
trying to look inviting.
Each pair of lips waits
for a wasp or bee carelessly
carrying on its fur tiny golden
grains of pollen from
another lobelia flower.
It only takes one minute pollen grain
to touch those waiting lips,
curve them into an instant smile,
and make the flower’s life succeed
by going entirely to seed.
I hope you appreciate shaggy dog puns. Shakespeare did. Pun and fun are secret synonyms. The oddity of flower ovaries is amazing.