They never seem to light, these little blues,
they paint erratic air with blue darts,
swirl up and down too quick to see
when they meet but are fickle, leave.
When a little blue does land it folds
and turns edge on—vanishes until
it turns again, or opens wings
and claps them softly closed, your eye
trying to recall a blue it hardly saw
but stays open wide in hope all day.
The four-winged bud sheaths of bindweed
grow red along the edges to the tip that splits
when the rolled trumpet pushes out to light.
Bud sheaths become the quiet calyx
of the horn, and the still edgy font of ovary.
Now is his time,
this monarch of butterflies.
Now he seeks
the Sweet Joe Pye and tongues it deep.
Now he must fly
to test passers-by, and with luck,
to her pheromones.
She is autumn’s queen, this wasp-waist
beauty eating nectar of the goldenrod.
She may soon be bumping at your window
in search of winter lodging where
she can carry eggs across the cold
to insure her dynasty. She is young,
wings strong, her colors bright,
her stripes defined to warn, but
she will not sting unless attacked.
All she wants to do is scrape at wood,
chew the fibers well with her saliva,
and spread the paste into a paper
layered into a comb where she will
raise her daughter brood if she can find
her place to carry eggs across the cold.
Paper wasps are the mellowest of wasps; unless you directly threaten the comb, they rarely sting.
Big bluestem grass still dances
yellow flowers in the breeze. Soon
small birds will bend its stems to eat its seeds.
Big bluestem grass is chiefly root, and deep,
brings to light each spring the truths of dissolved rock.
For a million years big bluestem became
thunder on the prairies, became the flesh of buffalo,
which for a million years became again big bluestem.
Form is an illusion; all beings are transformed and recycled.
Say these wide white wings lift a V in prayer,
to beg for surcease from the bully overhead,
that bully, yes, whose angel wings spread
in easy grace, shade the sun from those beneath.
For surely these great birds are seraphim,
ardor’s angels bred up from dinosaurs,
now rungs above humanity, we who wonder still
at beings of sky who seem angels but spread
and shade the sun from those beneath.
Or say that egret wings shake glory down from sunlight
as bass notes pluck the chambers of the heart
A dragonfly nymph leaves water,
climbs a water lily stalk,
splits its larval husk down the back, humps
and pulls its long life out, tastes oxygen from air,
pumps its wings full and waits to harden,
become its green darner colors.
It beats its wings now to warm the muscles,
they catch me, flashing in sunlight.
Has it fallen? It is dark beneath the lilypads,
I can only see the crystal gleam of wings,
at water level, still. Will it drown?
I take a photograph of mystery.
Later I see.
The green frog saw wingbeats sparkle too,
and took the dragon from its stem.
Both are beauties of their kind,
both old before our time.
I never saw the darner’s eyes.
The green frog, Rana clamitans, is big, needs be to swallow one of these largest dragonflies. When dragonflies emerge from water to transform, they are soft and vulnerable. Many are taken then by birds and other predators.
What bright blue eyes
punctuate the head
of this spreadwing damselfly.
His abdomen is ten dashes
ending with a clasper ampersand
as his shining wings cry O! O! O!
Side-by-side they hunt,
snails and frogs, I think,
until one egret takes offense
and the cellar of the brain
This is how it always ends.
One flies off, one chases victory,
open-beaked with thirst.
The hard part:
The chase is often beautiful.
Brain-stem aggression thins quickly in most creatures, and the chase ends it, but not in upright primates.
The little myrtle warbler
grabs up a bee,
crushes its buzz in its beak.
This little traveler is proof
that venom can be morphed
into food to fuel flight or song.
Poison to feed a song.
We transmute what life
gives us to catch.